The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has begun demolition of a long-vacant, one-story building on the southeast corner of 27th and Prospect that residents consider a blight on the neighborhood.
It’s part of a larger economic stimulus for the area, including a $74 million police station across the street built a couple of years ago and a 1/8th-cent sales tax to spur economic development along the Prospect Avenue corridor.
“The things that have led to the problems that have existed historically on the east side of Kansas City have been here for decades and decades and decades,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said at a ceremony to mark the demolition Wednesday. “We are trying to chip away at those problems one year at a time.”
27th and Prospect was the focus of a 1997 HBO documentary with the same name about efforts to fight substance abuse and address gun violence in the area.
“We wanted to reclaim our community and make a difference in our community,” said John Modest Miles, pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.
KCATA president and CEO Robbie Makinen said the building’s removal will help promote community and economic development. The median household income in the area is $21,875, according to data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey.
“We obtained this building for one reason only and that is to tear this sucker down,” Makinen said.
Joseph Jackson, a former head of the neighborhood council, said he’s been waiting for the building’s removal for years. Jackson is involved with Prospect MAX, a $54 million bus rapid transit line which will run along Prospect.
“The corridor is beginning to come back to life, but we … have to make sure also that we can have affordable housing,” Jackson said.
The demolition is expected to be completed in two weeks. KCATA hopes the cleared property will attract potential investors.
“This is a catalyst for change. This is a catalyst for progress,” Urban League President and CEO Gwen Grant said.
Congressman Cleaver and Others Celebrate
Kansas City, Mo. | July 30, 2018 – The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will host a ceremonial building demolition event at 10 a.m. Aug. 1, 2018, on the southeast corner of 27th & Prospect. Highlighting the event will be comments from U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, KCMO Mayor Sly James, 3rd District Councilman Jermaine Reed, and others. The Youth Choir from Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church will also perform.
“KCATA’s commitment goes beyond running buses up and down the street,” said Robbie Makinen, KCATA president & CEO. “We are also committed to driving economic and community development by making our neighborhoods cleaner and safer. We hope this demolition demonstrates what a good neighbor transit can be in revitalizing the Prospect Corridor.”
The KCATA has contracted with MBE-DBE Excavating & Grading, based in Kansas City, Kan. The demolition of the 4,200 sq. ft. building and filling of the basement area, topped with topsoil and grass seed, should be completed in approximately two weeks. The current site represents a safety hazard. With the eventual removal of the building, it will strengthen the safety and improve the appearance of this intersection and surrounding neighborhood. The cleared property is expected to be more attractive to potential investors, particularly with new developments on the west side of the street.
“I have been committed to seeing this intersection revitalized ever since I took office,” said Reed. “You just have to look around to see the results of what leadership and commitment will produce. I appreciate the longstanding partnership with KCATA. And very soon, we’ll be celebrating the groundbreaking of Prospect MAX.”
Adjacent to the demolition site is the new $74 million Leon Mercer Jordan East Patrol Campus that opened in Spring 2016. Opposite that corner is the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church’s Youth and Family Life Center. The center’s mission is to help families with tutoring, job-training skills, counseling, as well as health and wellness programs.
A notorious intersection on Kansas City’s East Side achieved another milestone in renewal on Sunday with the ceremonial opening of the Morningstar Youth & Family Outreach and Career Development Center at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue.
Where drunks and drug dealers once tossed bottles and needles, a new 13,000-square-foot facility will offer educational programs for youths and services for seniors.
More than 100 people gathered to celebrate the first phase of a dream brought forth a quarter-century ago by the Rev. John Modest Miles of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church next door at 27th Street and Wabash Avenue. The late banker and civic leader William C. Nelson helped Miles in his quest.
The project, still in need of some landscaping and other finishing touches, is the result of raising more than $5 million in private and government funds to acquire decrepit and vacant properties on the southwest corner of 27th and Prospect.
“When people ask us what the city’s role is and why we’re involved in these projects, it is very simple,” said John A. Wood, city director of neighborhoods and housing services. “It is because we want to bring an end of darkness in the community, of chronic blight, nuisance and disinvestment, and bring more light into the community with new investment, new opportunity, a stronger and vibrant neighborhood and ultimately to improve lives.”
Directly across the street is the police department’s new East Patrol station and crime lab. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority plans to begin a new MAX rapid bus route on Prospect Avenue. And the city hopes to break ground by the end of the month on a new full-service grocery not far away at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue.
And Miles said he hopes to begin work this fall on a new senior housing facility south of the youth and family life center.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James called it all “catalytic urban development.”
Several speakers, including Jackson County Executive Frank White and Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, recalled growing up not far from the intersection.
“I’ve been around long enough to have seen our neighborhood when it was vibrant, and also long enough to see it suffer,” White said. “That is why this day is so special to me, because the building of this center helps transform our neighborhood. It is a source of pride.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been seven years in the making, but this spring, African American leaders will finally open the first credit union designed to serve low-income families in the urban core.
Many in the African American community have worked hard to establish an alternative to the high costs of payday lending.
Organizers said four out of 10 people in the central city either don’t have a checking or savings account, or rely on financial services outside the banking system.
“I can’t take cash here,” said Tenesia Looney, an urban core realty broker. “It’s just too risky to accept cash.”
Looney knows firsthand that cash is king on Kansas City’s east side. The supervising broker at Keys Realty Group collects rent from nearly 70 tenants in the inner city, and she said nearly all of them try to pay her in cash.
“I have so many clients that don’t have bank accounts or are afraid of banks themselves,” Looney said.
Like many on the east side, Looney knows taking in cash would make her a tempting target for criminals. Her office is located near Linwood and Indiana avenues, a neighborhood plagued by violent crime and street gangs.
“We have to pay in other forms of payment such as money orders or cashier’s checks or checks,” Looney explained. “Most of them do money orders because they don’t have bank accounts.”
That’s why civic leaders are opening a community development credit union near 31st Street and Prospect Avenue.
This is the second busiest public transit point in the city, a prime market for those who may best benefit from using a credit union.
“How do you create a mechanism where the dollars in that community will circulate in that community?” asked Ron Lindsay, senior pastor at Concord Fortress of Hope Church. “Because we are the only community in America where the dollar doesn’t even circulate one time because there’s no institutions that will do it.”
Urban core churches raised $51,000 to support operations of the new WeDevelopment Federal Credit Union. Lindsay said church members recognize the need because they often struggle to save money or face exorbitant costs to borrow.
“You pay more for gas because the gas stations charge you more,” said Ajamu Webster, the credit union’s board chairman. “You pay more for food per item, and you pay more for financial services because you are getting them from subprime places set up to do that.”
When it opens in April, the credit union will have nearly $2 million to lend and more than $400,000 in donated funds to cover operating costs for two years.
“It’s all part of a cycle,” Webster said. “But it starts right now with people being an owner, rather than people being taken advantage of because they are poor.”
Supporters said a credit union focused on community development will help the urban core grow in places where traditional banks deem potential investments to be too risky.
“Most black businesses will never get off the ground because there are not entities that will fund them, that will create opportunities to loan them money,” Lindsay said. “This gives us an opportunity to be at the table for people who look like us.”
Low-income workers often are intimidated by minimum balance requirements and other penalties that may be imposed on a bank account.
“One problem is fees,” Webster said. “The other problem is if you’ve had a problem with a bank in the past, or your credit score is not good, some banks, you can’t even open an account. So people are resorting to using check cashing or payday lending or other ways of making it.”
Paying up to 500 percent interest on a payday loan has become one of the most popular other ways.
“You tell them, ‘I need some money and will you give me $500?” Lindsay said. “And they charge you 50 to 75 percent of the dollar you are asking for, for themselves. And you miss that. They are banking on you not understanding your worth.”
Groups like Communities Creating Opportunity claim there are more payday loan storefronts in Missouri than the number of McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks coffeehouses combined.
“Sometimes you can walk in there and pay 18 percent just to cash a check,” Webster said. “That’s crazy!”
Helping people become financially literate is part of the community development credit union’s mission. It starts with understanding that you don’t have to pay big bucks to access your own money.
“‘They are excited about this,” Lindsay said about the African American community. “They are hungry to see it happen. They are ready to open up accounts.”
Credit union members own their financial institution. Any fees are generally lower than bank fees and returned back to member owners as profit sharing.
“When you do establish with a credit union, the fees are lower. Everything is lower,” said Looney, who is waiting to open an account. “The rates, it helps the consumer keep more money in their pocket instead of giving it to the bank.”
And in neighborhoods that need more dollars, many believe controlling their own financial future is the key to escaping poverty.
Anyone south of the Missouri River to 85th street and between Troost Avenue and Interstate 435 is eligible to become a WeDevelopment Federal Credit Union member if they live, work or worship within those boundaries.