Don Maxwell doesn’t mince words when he describes the old shopping center at Linwood and Prospect on Kansas City’s East Side.
“It’s a ghetto,” says Maxwell, who used to own the property and still manages it on behalf of the city. “We’re getting ready to turn it into a gold mine.”
When the city bought the property last year for $950,000 with plans to put in a Sun Fresh Market, there wasn’t a playbook for a city-backed grocery store.
“Direct development business isn’t something the city is used to doing,” City Manager Troy Schulte says. “We had to break some rules and make new rules as we went forward.”
On Monday, city officials celebrated the demolition of the vacant storefront with a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Mayor Sly James says early on, his administration knew something had to be done about the Linwood Shopping Center.
“If we want to really make a foothold and show we’re making progress on the East Side, this was one of those early visible symbols that had to change,” James says.
Frank White told the crowd of community and business leaders he wasn’t there as Jackson County Executive but as someone who grew up in the neighborhood.
“East of Troost hasn’t always been like we perceive it today. When I moved into this neighborhood in the late 1950s, it was a beautiful neighborhood,” White says.
Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, too, shared memories of the shopping center’s former splendor.
“Our community certainly deserves a full-service grocery store. We have to do everything we can to make sure these amenities are afforded to all of our citizens,” says Reed.
Redevelopment of the shopping center will cost $13 million. The city plans to keep the retail businesses at the north and south ends of the shopping center.
Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.