KCMO City Hall

A traffic engineer fine-tunes the InSync system from a remote computer.
Rhythm Engineering/InSync

A new $700,000 computerized traffic system installed by a private company to give Kansas City streetcar riders a better experience is reducing travel times for all vehicles in the downtown streetcar zone, according to the company.  

Jesse Manning of Rhythm Engineering, a Lenexa, Kansas, firm, told a City Council committee last week that the smart traffic system has reduced travel times between the River Market and Union Station by 31 percent northbound and 23 percent southbound during morning peak traffic hours.

Clay Chastain
Video frame courtesy of TV-9

It took just 1,709 valid signatures to qualify for a public vote. And Clay Chastain turned in 47 more than that.

But a place for his latest light rail plan is not assured a place on the ballot yet.

Chastain, who lives in Virginia most of the time, expects resistance from the Kansas City Council to his $2 billion plan.

Stinging from the slap of having a previous proposal blocked from the ballot because city attorneys found court support for their contention that the measure as put forth was illegal, the activist has tried to ward off another refusal.

Proposed apartment complex at 17th and Madison
Rendering courtesy of EPC Real Estate

Concerned neighbors, many of them senior citizens, showed up at Kansas City City Hall last week to object to a proposed apartment project at 17th and Madison on the city's Westside. But few had a chance to testify.

According to former city councilman Robert Hernandez and other community leaders, many were retired and low-income persons who worried that the upscale apartments would drive up their property taxes and force them out of their homes.

Vision of rebuild Linwood Shopping Center
Rendering by Builders by Design, LLC

The Prospect corridor in Midtown Kansas City has been without a full-service grocery store for a little over 10 years.

That is how long it has been since owners threw in the towel on the store at the old Linwood Shopping Center.

The area could have a real grocery store back soon – probably a SunFresh store. But, city staff estimates it will cost taxpayers up to a half-million dollars a year to underwrite the project.

Councilman Jermaine Reed, whose district the shopping center would serve, called support for the project a council responsibility.

Proposed apartment complex at 17th and Madison
Rendering courtesy of EPC Real Estate

An apartment project proposed for 17th and Madison drew continued opposition this week despite concessions by developers. 

The  Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a scaled-back version of the EPC Real Estate proposal in which the developer reduced the height of the apartment building, cut back the number of apartments from 60 to 48 and reduced the amount of retail space included in the project.

Neighborhood groups urged the committee to reject the project, citing several reasons. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A four hour hearing Wednesday left a Kansas City Council committee undecided on the fate of a $27.6 million plan for improvements to the 18th and Vine Jazz District. 

The request for city participation had virtually quadrupled from the $7 million version first proposed.

The plan had grown in its 6-month life to include historic preservation, infrastructure improvements, a fountain, outdoor amphitheater, apartments, retail and a connecting corridor to the Crossroads Arts District.

KC Police

An audit released this week concludes that with tight budgets and unfilled officer positions, the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department should re-evaluate its policies on allowing officers to take police vehicles home with them in their off-duty hours.

The police do not agree.

The audit found that 45 percent of the police fleet is assigned for take-home with no tracking of mileage or how they are used after duty hours.

A boutique hotel is planned for the Pendgergast Building and old Pabst brewery.
aprium.com

The full Kansas City Council on Thursday gave unanimous approval to tax abatement and other incentives for planned hotels in the heart of
downtown in the Crossroads Arts District.

Both involve the renovation of historic buildings: the old Federal Reserve building at 9th and Grand and the Pendergast Building and former Pabst brewery in the Crossroads.

visitkc.com

A Kansas City Council Committee has approved a contract extension of up to five years for California-based company Ticketmaster to continue to ticketing for events at city-owned convention and entertainment facilities.

McGaskey, executive director for the venues, says one factor that set Ticketmaster apart from two competing bidders was a $45,000 annual Ticketmaster allowance for advertising to help promote events. He said the assistance is a “nice incentive” to offer some event sponsors. 

courtesy A. Zahner Company

By a unanimous vote, the Kansas City City Council approved $1.6 million in funding on Thursday to repair one of the iconic sculptures called Sky Stations on top of Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City.

"I think one of the most famous, or perhaps sometimes infamous, pieces of art that have been placed in this city are the Sky Stations," says Councilman Scott Wagner of the sculptures, popularly known as "hair curlers."

About 180 small businesses in Kansas City, Missouri, would be eligible for SBA “micro-loans” averaging $10,000 each under a plan approved by a city council committee on Wednesday. 

Economic Development chair Scott Taylor says the first phase of the program has already loaned out $2.3 million.

Taylor says almost 53 percent of the loans have been to businesses east of Troost and the repayment rate has been a high 95 percent.

Much of the business development success in the metro today is due, in part, to TIF — tax increment financing — that has attracted investment and built big projects. But TIF also comes with a cost and increasingly, some say that cost is too high.

Guest:

  • Kevin Collison is a KCUR contributor who covers development in Kansas City. 
Courtesy of City of Kansas City, Missouri

“This was a relatively pleasant budget process,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James of the months leading up to Thursday's City Council approval of a $1.5 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  Then his council colleagues laughed as he added, “We actually had money.  That always makes it a little easier.”

The new spending plan includes funding for 2 percent raises for city employees who have been hit by wage freezes in several recent years.

Bob Bennett, Chief Innovation Office for Kansas City, Mo, explains some of the proposed ideas that made the city one of seven finalists in the U.S. Department of Transportation's  Smart City Challenge.

City Hall
City of Kansas City

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a $1.5 billion budget on Thursday that kicks off a $10 million two-year plan to tear down about 800 abandoned houses, increases spending on basic services by 5 percent and allows for 2 percent raises for city employees.

The same day the council approved a union contract granting firefighters 2.6 percent raises. The agreement reduces a potential wage freeze in case emergency medical services revenue does not increase by 6 percent from two years to one.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The city of Kansas City, Missouri recently announced $10 million in its budget to demolish hundreds of homes that are rotting in urban neighborhoods.

These homes are not only an eyesore, but attract squatters and crime.

The funds are meant to help get rid of more than 800 homes on the city’s dangerous buildings list. But when residents got wind of the program, they cried out to save some of the homes. 

KCCG, Channel 2

A development incentive plan Mayor Sly James calls the Shared Success Fund faced its first criticism in a city council committee Wednesday.

The mayor wants to tap into the developer-incentive system to set aside money the city could use to help support other developments in areas with low incomes, high unemployment and a lack of new construction. 

James says the vast majority of the area that would qualify is the east-central area of Kansas City south of the river.

Firefighters Local 42

A committee of the Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a contract with Firefighters Local 42 on Wednesday.

But the union says it is not the deal they agreed to.

The rift prompted hot words from the union president and an icy atmosphere at the committee table.

Upon hearing the proposal City Manager Troy Schulte asked the finance committee to endorse, Local 32 president Bill Galvin's first comment was, “This right here is the first I've seen of this ordinance.  To me this is bargaining in bad faith.”

Just a few weeks ago, three district seats remained open on the Kansas City Schools Board. Now, a competitive field of at least five write-in candidates has coalesced. KCUR’s Kyle Palmer sat down with Kansas City Mayor Sly James to discuss the elections, the district’s new superintendent and master plan and and challenges facing the district and the city.

Excavation safety group - dlickr.com

An ordinance advanced by a Kansas City Council committee on Wednesday would require contractors to pluck the unsightly markers when their work is done.

Utility line excavation markers are required by law,  but the fluttering swatches of yellow and orange that  line lawns along roadways often remain long after they have served their purpose. 

Their wire stems may pose mowing hazards for several years to come.

Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said the ordinance will require the removal of the flags before the contractor can close the permit on the job site.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

After more than a year of uncertainty, recommendations on the future of Kemper Arena are just weeks away. 

Kansas City Council Economic Development Chair Scott Taylor said on Wednesday that a special committee is wrapping up its work and he expects to submit recommendations to the full council sometime in March. 

Taylor said there will also be more public hearings before a final decision is made, including one to be held at Kemper Arena.

cooltagged.com

A proposal for tax incentives to bring production of films, television series episodes and major TV commercials to Kansas City cleared a City Council committee Wednesday.

The details of the plan have been in the making for several months at the Film and Media Office of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Development chair Scott Taylor told the Finance Committee that Kansas City is losing talent and production contracts to cities that offer the incentives. A particularly frustrating case, he said was losing a movie set in Kansas City to Atlanta.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The city has announced plans to demolish the Royale Inn -- known to neighbors and leaders as a dangerous, crime-ridden place, not to mention a less-than-welcoming gateway to downtown when driving from the interstate onto Paseo. But while demolition may solve problems for the neighborhood, does it address underlying issues of poverty and crime, or just relocate them?

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

If you look at the travel brochures about Kansas City, or talk to the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District is always listed among the top destinations.

People come from all over the world in search of that distinctive Kansas City sound.

Rendering courtesy of Crawford Architects

Airline consultants have rejected a proposal to renovate existing KCI terminals rather than build a new one.

Consultant Lou Salomon of AvAirPros told the Kansas City Council Airport Committee Tuesday that the renovation plan lacks the flexibility needed for a forecast 40 percent passenger traffic growth by 2040 and underestimates the costs.

“The major renovations are just less efficient,” Salomon said. “And they cost more – and not just from the initial capital costs perspective.  They cost more to operate and maintain and to finance.”

The Royale Inn at 6th and Paseo
Photo from Google Earth Street Views

Residents of the Northeast area of Kansas City have been trying for more than 15 years to get rid of the Royale Inn Motel. 

The now vacant motel was for years an eyesore, a trysting place, transient motel and the scene of numerous disturbances, drug deals and at least one murder.

“The Royale has been a thorn in the side of the Northeast,” is the way Northeast News Publisher Michael Bushnell put it when addressing a City Council committee on Thursday.

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

A downtown Kansas City mainstream denomination church is bucking the trend of declining religious affiliation and shrinking church attendance.

The United Methodist  Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, established a downtown campus six years ago. 

Currently, Resurrection Downtown meets a brick commercial building at 1522 McGee that looks more like an industrial supply company than a church. But like the mega-church that gave it life, the downtown church is no average storefront church.  

A boutique hotel is planned for the Pendgergast Building and old Pabst brewery.
aprium.com

What may have been the headquarters of Boss Tom Pendergast's bootlegging operations during the prohibition era is slated to be reborn as a boutique hotel.

Pendergast was smart enough to cover those tracks, if the bootlegging rumors were accurate. Officially, the building  at 2101 Central St. housed his non-alcoholic beverage businesses.

The building and the industrial-style building adjacent were build for the Pabst Brewing Company in the early 1900s.

KMBC

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté is starting the year with his hands full, after another streak of violent crime.

So far, the city has seen eight homicides in the first ten days of January. This, following a particularly deadly end of 2015.

“I’ve been concerned (about violence) my entire life as a young male growing up in Kansas City," Forté told host Steve Kraske on Up to Date. "I stay awake at night I think, ‘Darryl what else can you do?’” 

Google Earth

Neighbors called the 1927 English Tudor-revival apartments charming and said they fit the character and history of the west edge of  Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.

Historic Kansas City Foundation preservation enthusiasts said the three half-timbered brick, stucco and stone buildings are examples of the work of prominent female Kansas City architect Nelle Peters and should be saved. 

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