The sidewalk outside of Wanda Taylor's house on Tracy Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., is cracking – it's bad enough that her dog, Faith, steps gingerly around it during an evening walk.
All of the sidewalks in Troostwood, where Taylor is neighborhood association president, used to look like this. But two years ago, the sidewalks north of 51st Street were replaced as part of the Green Impact Zone project. The fresh, new concrete is stamped "GIZ 2012."
“Now see how nice sidewalks – the difference that they make?” asks Taylor.
Most of Taylor’s neighborhood is within the Green Impact Zone, which is bounded by 39th Street to the north and 51st Street to the south. But there are a few blocks – hers included – that just missed the cut off.
That means as millions of dollars in federal funds and matching grants flowed into the Green Impact Zone between 2009 and 2012, those parts of Troostwood missed out on improvements that nearby neighbors reaped.
“So with the Green Impact Zone, as monies were made available, especially monies for sidewalks and new curbs – because I think that’s the most visible thing neighbors could see – those sidewalks and curbs stopped at 51st Street,” says Taylor.
Can a one-time cash infusion revitalize the urban core?
Five years ago, civic leaders decided to invest Kansas City's stimulus money in this 150-block area east of Troost Avenue. Roughly 3,000 households in the Green Impact Zone got new electrical meters, new community centers and new sidewalks.
Today, Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver – whose support was instrumental to securing those funds – says it was money well spent.
“While there are some things left undone, we pretty much have in place what we wanted,” says Cleaver.
Feedback, he says, has been pretty positive.
“Those are the only negative comments we receive, are from people who don’t live in the Green Impact Zone,” says Cleaver.
With new sidewalks, Troostwood neighborhood shines
Taylor gets it – after all, she says the Green Impact Zone had to cut off somewhere. And in her neighborhood, it’s impact has been mostly positive. Up the street, Troostwood is seeing a kind of renaissance.
“We have a brand new homeowner occupant on Forest," she says. "The home sold for the asking price. It sold in one day, well over $100,000.”
But Taylor is not sure Troostwood’s southern edge, untouched by new sidewalks and Green Impact Zone dollars, can compete.
“So it’s like, if you’re going to buy a house, where are you going to get it?" says Taylor. "So it just enhances people who keep their properties because it’s now suddenly not a hazard.”
That’s why Taylor is now on a mission: she wants to find another funding source to get the rest of her neighborhood new sidewalks.
Now it's up to communities to continue Green Impact Zone's work
And this is where the Green Impact Zone story gets interesting. It’s easy to point to 11 miles of new sidewalks and say the money made a difference. But less tangible is the work Green Impact Zone staff did relating to community development. Alecia Kates worked in the zone’s neighborhood office until it shut down earlier this year.
“I just helped the neighborhood association leadership be able to do more in terms of engaging their neighbors, putting together community events, applying for other grants,” says Kates.
And really, that’s the thing about big projects such as the Green Impact Zone – they’re all temporary investments. Once the money dries up, it’s hard to sustain.
“So they’re gone, but I’m not gone," Taylor laughs. "I learned a lot about how the city operates, who to call for what.”
Taylor says she’s still in touch with the folks who ran the Green Impact Zone – they’ve moved on to other projects but still let her know about grants that might get the rest of Troostwood those new sidewalks.
“When – I’m going to be positive and say when I find the money to do it,” says Taylor, it'll make the neighborhood she considers a hidden gem that much more appealing.
This look at Kansas City's east side is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what's being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences east of Troost Avenue with KCUR.