By Paul Thompson
March 20, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The $12 million Paseo Gateway Project took a major step forward on the morning of Monday, March 20, as the long-gestating demolition of the Royale Inn motel finally began.
More than a year after the Kansas City, Missouri City Council announced plans to approve the $2.7 million purchase and demolition of the motel, the project began in symbolic fashion with the tear-down down of the infamous Royale Inn sign. For 1st District Councilman Scott Wagner, it was a special moment that was a long time in the making.
“This is a gratifying moment, to see the completion of a discussion that started in 2011, knowing that a lot of things had to come together,” said Wagner. “There’s an old saying that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good; I kind of feel a little bit of both today.”
KCMO Mayor Sly James was also on hand for the proceedings, during which Bobbi Baker-Hughes of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce gifted him an honorary key to the former Ramada Inn that once stood on the site. James noted that the demolition of the Royale Inn marked the beginning of a new era in the Historic Northeast.
“For years this building has been the center of illegal activity, vandalism, and all sorts of nefarious deeds,” said James. “That changes today.”
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) also took part in the ceremony, as Public Relations and Outreach Manager Elizabeth Alex discussed the role that the University has taken in revitalizing the Paseo Gateway area. Alex noted that the University’s involvement in the project began with a joint commission between Mayor Sly James and KCUMB President Marc B. Hahn. KCUMB took the first step forward when, in 2015, the school purchased and demolished the former Capri Motel located on Independence Avenue.
“KCU is honored to be working with the city to revitalize the Paseo Gateway and this neighborhood to its original grandeur,” said Alex.
The City of Kansas City, Missouri completed the acquisition of the Royale Inn in August of 2016. The site was purchased for $1.8 million plus closing costs on Friday, July 29, the deed was signed on Monday, August 1, and the building was secured by Wednesday, August 3. Now more than seven months later, the demolition will pave the way for the eventual $5 million realignment of the intersection at Independence Ave. and The Paseo.
The realignment – a key aspect of the Paseo Gateway Project – is expected to improve connectivity between downtown Kansas City and neighborhoods on the city’s east side, including the Historic Northeast. It’s all part of the $30 million Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Grant program, which was awarded in 2015 to help revitalize the area. The Choice Neighborhoods Grant also includes the relocation of residents from the Chouteau Court housing complex to new housing within the Paseo Gateway area.
“The monies are all together for us to begin the rebuilding of this area. Again, what really drove part of this project are the safety improvements that were identified back in 2003,” said Wagner. “This deals with the infrastructure, we’ve got development coming as part of the Gateway project, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to put all of this together in an interlocking puzzle that results in something far greater than anyone ever imagined.”