Photo by Michael Bushnell

Michael Bushnell, Publisher

There was a time when barn raisings were a common event in rural America. A new farmer or rancher would settle on a spread and neighbors from miles around would come join the new family to help build the barn that would serve the landowner and family for years to come.

The day-long event usually culminated in a huge potluck dinner and an evening of celebration. The long standing custom is still practiced in the Amish community today. 

Hardhats await volunteers, who will raise the first wall on the new home. Photo by Michael Bushnell

While straying from a traditional barn raising, today in the Lykins neighborhood,  stakeholders and community partners joined together to raise the first wall of a new home at 11th Street and Jackson Avenue for a single mother and her family. 

Today’s project is believed to be the first new residential construction in the Lykins neighborhood since Old Northeast Incorporated, the Community Development Corporation that served the Historic Northeast community, erected four new homes near 9th and Norton in 1995. 

Project partners pose after the ceremonial first wall is lifted into place at the new Habitat home at 4116 E. 11th Street. Partners on the project include Habitat for Humanity KC, H&R Block and the Lykins Neighborhood Association.  Photo by Michael Bushnell

Partnering on the project are Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City, H&R Block and the Lykins neighborhood. This is one of five new residential builds scheduled this year in Lykins, according to Lindsay Hicks, Vice President of Development for Habitat KC. It’s part of an aggressive plan to repair an additional 30 or so homes. Between $500 to $7,000 will be invested on each project – covering everything from roof repairs to new walls and windows in owner-occupied properties throughout the Lykins neighborhood.

Lindsay Hicks (left) and Pat Turner, Habitat KC President & CEO speak to community partners at Thursday’s Wall Raising ceremony in the Lykins neighborhood. Photo by Michael Bushnell

The new house is being built on a lot that Lykins Neighborhood Association Executive Director Gregg Lombardi said has been a huge problem for the surrounding community. 

“This corner was seriously blighted and a problem property with a lot of blight around it,” Lombardi said. “The neighborhood has come together with a lot of different collaborators, including the City that tore down a horrible, burned-out building that was here, in order to make this project happen.”  

Gregg Lombardi, Executive Director of the Lykins Neighborhood Association, speaks on Thursday. Photo by Michael Bushnell

Lombardi pointed out over five properties within eyesight of today’s new build that the neighborhood has targeted for improvements.

“I sort of feel like I’m in a ‘National Geographic’ special, standing in an old growth forest after a fire,” Lombardi said. “You see the horrible devastation of the fire, but then suddenly – organically – it’s coming back in a new and wonderful way. What we have is an old growth neighborhood that’s been decimated by decades of neglect and this project is part of that new, organic growth.”

Volunteers and partners work together to raise the first wall of the home. Photo by Michael Bushnell

For new homeowner Elizabeth Francis, the project has been the culmination of a journey that started over two years ago. 

“Oh my goodness, I’m so excited. I haven’t allowed myself to get really excited until now,” Francis said as she stood in what will soon be her new back door. “It’s actually happening. I’ve been waiting for two long years.”

Framed by what will become the back door to her new home, new homeowner Elizabeth Francis stands in what will eventually be her new kitchen. The first home Francis was slated for through Habitat ended up going to a different family but she insisted on staying in Lykins. Photo by Michael Bushnell

Francis moved to the Lykins neighborhood nine years ago, thinking it would be a temporary thing. Changes in her family dynamic, however, necessitated a move.

“I went through the application process and long story short, here we are today,” she said. “I had no idea I would grow to love it and appreciate it, and want to stay here.”

Rock Family of KC member Mike Whited, Rock Family Church Pastor Raymond DeLaCruz, Linda Ruth-Kramer, Francis’ mother and Elizabeth Francis stand in a window frame of her new home in the Lykins Neighborhood. Photo by Michael Bushnell

Raymond De La Cruz, Pastor at Rock Family Church of KC donated the lot for the project and is also thrilled with the outcome. 

“We’re truly excited from a spiritual perspective,” De La Cruz said. “Everything just fell into place and now this once abandoned lot has a new storyline and new memories are going to be made here.”

Construction is slated for completion, weather permitting, by late summer.