It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report.
"The stakes are high," said third district Councilman Jermaine Reed at an outdoor event at the American Jazz Museum's amphitheater. Reed also chairs the new 18th and Vine Development Policy Committee, established to provide oversight.
"Investment in 18th and Vine is not just about return on the investment or just some economic development that we are putting forward. Our work here is about creating a connected and vibrant community," he said.
Reed described the past year as "long and productive."
To date, the city has stabilized historic buildings or their facades along the 1800 block of Vine Street, demolished vacant structures, and readied the first floor of the Buck O’Neil Education & Research Center at 1824 Paseo.
"We've got a lot of work done. But we got a lot of work to do," said City Manager Troy Schulte.
About 25 percent of the projects in the first phase of a three-stage $27.6 million plan are finished.
"It's starting. We just have to stick with it, we have to persevere, we have to be patient," said Schulte. "We have to continue to hope for the best and work for the best."
Construction begins later this month on a parking lot at 18th and Lydia, which will also serve visitors to the district's new Urban Youth Academy. This fall, the Boone Theatre at 1701 E. 18th Street is slated for stabilization, and the outdoor stage at the American Jazz Museum gets an upgrade. Streetscaping along 18th Street, including a protected bicycle lane connecting the jazz district to the Crossroads, is also in the works.
City officials, working with the development policy committee, district partners, and others, are actively seeking out public-private partnerships to sustain future plans for the district.
"Phase one was always going to be about creating a catalyst for private development, private investment, and making sure that we take care of things that we need to," said Councilman Quinton Lucas, who also represents the third district.
"Our goal has always been not for the city to spend the money to sustain this area and district forever," Lucas said.
About $5.2 million in improvements, or 75 percent of the projects mapped out in this first phase, are expected to be completed by spring 2018.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.