The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce had a busy year serving the International Marketplace along Independence Avenue, throughout Historic Northeast and beyond.

In 2021, the Chamber focused on ways to grow community engagement. From virtual presentations to socially distanced networking events, the Chamber hosted dozens of events for its members and community. Monthly Tasty Topic Talk Luncheons spanned a variety of topics from E-Tax with Mayor Quinton Lucas to The Arts Asylum, KC Spirit Playbook, Della Lamb, and Civics 101 with Kansas City Public Schools Board Treasurer Manny Abarca. The Chamber hosted its popular Coffee, Culture & Conversation events out in the community, honoring Boulevard Bakery’s years of service, and created opportunities to try new foods and learn about different cultures.

The Chamber has been a strong supporter of the arts through the Economic Growth Gallery (EGG) at 2659 Independence Ave. From figure drawing Fridays to holiday pop-ups and rehearsals, the EGG was open to crafters, artists and actors.

Along Independence Avenue, it’s easy to spot the Chamber’s 2021 contributions to the landscape of our neighborhoods and business community. In April, the Chamber was one of many local sponsors, including St. Luke’s Hospital, for a new mural near Independence and Prospect avenues calling attention to Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and encouraging healthy living. Also adding color to the neighborhood, Chamber Events Director Rebecca Koop unveiled an intricate mosaic mural on the front of Back Door Pottery on St. John Avenue.

For the Chamber, 2021 was the year of the Monarch. They worked closely with the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) to plant butterfly gardens along Independence Avenue, offering rest to the monarch population traveling through Kansas City. The symbolism of migration to a safer home resonated with the immigrant and refugee population in Northeast, and also with those experiencing transformative growth.

The Chamber’s annual summer mural was painted by local artists on the west side of Christine’s Place, 5108 Independence Avenue, brightening up the corner with flowers and a two-story Monarch butterfly. The mural was unveiled with a neighborhood block party and family friendly entertainment.

Local partners, including NEAT, the Northeast News, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and the Chamber, supported Christine’s Place’s mission of ending sex trafficking and prostitution in Northeast and beyond. The partners installed “Anti-John” signs across Northeast, urging those who witness these illegal acts to call and report the license plate numbers of buyers.

The Chamber and CID supported community efforts to clean up Northeast, helping with Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT) clean-ups, clearing 17 alleyways of trash, maintaining City trash cans on the Avenue, and contracting with MARC, KCATA and KC Parks for other solid waste remediation.

As the Paseo Gateway Project continued, the Chamber was a strong connection for businesses to participate in the Critical Community Improvement (CCI) Facade Improvement Program, which helps spruce up the signage and storefronts on the Avenue. 

The Chamber welcomed back long-time members and greeted new ones, many of which are locally owned small businesses, creating a robust network of 113 businesses. Sixty-five of those business entities are new members in 2021 thanks to the outreach efforts of Rol Deng, the Chamber’s Ambassador of Business Communications.

Chamber CEO Bobbi Baker-Hughes knows the Independence Avenue business community is only as strong as its neighborhoods, so the Chamber partnered with Kansas City University, the North-East Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, and State Representative Ingrid Burnett to host a three-day Northeast Kansas City Housing Solutions Summit. The event brought together government officials and neighborhood leaders, nonprofits, activists, organizers and service providers to find creative solutions to sustainable housing and homelessness.

Annual events like the Beads Beans & Booze Mardi Gras, free document shredding events, job fairs, a fall festival for elementary students, and town halls with local elected officials continued this year in modified formats.

The Chamber is gearing up for a busy and meaningful 2022, and plans to continue its partnership with the Northeast News to share information and resources with local businesses and the Historic Northeast community.

“Despite the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber and Independence Avenue CID will continue to support the businesses in our community and engage with and create new partners with the intent to cause our diverse Historic Northeast to thrive as we navigate 2022,” Baker-Hughes said.