Beyond Our Borders - Troost

KCUR wants to know more about how Kansas Citians divide themselves and come together in a bi-state metropolitan area. So we're asking the question: How do geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City?

Our extensive Beyond Our Borders project is intended to spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.  We are exploring the history of four distinct lines - Troost Avenue, the State Line, the Wyandotte-Johnson county line, and the Missouri River - and how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE: Volunteer to host a community listening session with KCUR. We are looking for partners to help us run neighborhood forums that will fuel the stories for Beyond Our Borders. If you are interested in KCUR visiting your community or would like to help us coordinate one of these sessions, please email Ron Jones, KCUR community engagement director, at ron@kcur.org.

STORY IDEAS: If you have tips or story ideas for Beyond Our Borders, reach out to Laura Ziegler, community engagement reporter, lauraz@kcur.org, or Briana O’Higgins, digital content editor, at briana@kcur.org.

BE A PART OF THE DIALOGUE: Use the #KCborders hashtag on Twitter to ask us questions, share Beyond Our Borders stories with your networks, raise community concerns, tell us how we’re doing and suggest opportunities for coverage. We’re all ears.

FOLLOW THE CONVERSATION: Check back at kcur.org/beyondourborders for updates. Follow us on Twitter at @kcur and on Facebook to keep a pulse on the conversation.

Paul Sableman / Flickr-CC

 

When hungry Kansas Citians need a lazy night in, they often reach for the phone. They know a wide variety of local pizza places are ready to deliver cheesy goodness to their doorsteps. 

Unless they live east of Troost Avenue.

While national chains Papa John's and Domino's will deliver east of Troost, many local pizza places won't.  

Minsky's on Main Street won't go there. Pizza 51 sits three blocks away from Troost at 51st and Oak — it won't deliver there either. Neither will Pickleman's. Sarpino's Pizza in Midtown will, maybe.

Michael Schmidt / Confluence

In downtown Kansas City, Mo., the stretch along 18th Street between the Crossroads Arts District and the 18th and Vine Jazz District is roughly a little over a mile — but this span includes 52.5 acres of paved surface lots. That's more than at Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium combined.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

On First Fridays, the Crossroads Arts District attracts a crowd to an area transformed into a mecca for artist studios, galleries, restaurants, and shops. Just about a mile away, it’s a little quieter. But the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District has cultural amenities of its own, such as the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Efforts are underway to link the two districts along 18th Street.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City, Mo.,  has seen a lot of development in the last few decades — downtown has a new entertainment district, a new arena and performing arts center, and the Crossroads has flourished with boutiques, restaurants, art studios and businesses.

But as the rest of Kansas City grows, the east side remains plagued by crumbling and abandoned homes, crime, and lack of access to grocery and retail.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Martha Tolbert has lived directly across from the Linwood Presbyterian Church and adjacent Harold Thomas Center for more than 50 years.

The massive complex at Linwood Boulevard and U.S. Highway 71 has been an architectural icon in the Ivanhoe neighborhood since its construction around the turn of the century.  

But for decades, the buildings have been vacant, the majestic bell tower crumbling and the brick walls  increasingly dilapidated.

Cara McClain / KCUR

Blanche Thomas wants neighbors. She has been living in the Ivanhoe neighborhood at 34th Street and Brooklyn Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., since 1956.

Back then, there was a grocery store and dry cleaners across the street. Houses stood on either side of hers. But now, the block looks different.

“It has changed 100 percent because in the block that I live in there are no houses,” Thomas says. “There are no people living on my block, only my son and I.”

The two apartment buildings across the street stand empty. Thomas bought the two lots on either side of her house.

Courtesy / Ron Jones

KCUR’s Beyond Our Borders project has kicked off a year-long examination of the geographic lines that separate our region. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

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.

Paul Sableman / Flickr, Creative Commons

To conclude KCUR's extended investigation of Troost Avenue as a border that Kansas Citians perceive as a dividing line, Central Standard asked a question that often goes unspoken. That is, when we talk about Troost, as a city, are we really talking about race?

When we talk about Troost in Kansas City, are we really talking about race? A panel of people who live, work and think on the street discuss whether our Troost meme is useful, or causes further divisions.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Ida Dockary and Florence Hayden have seen it all during the 55 years they’ve lived on the 3800 block of the Ivanhoe neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., just a few doors down from one another.

At 81 and 86 years old, respectively, they were there when Ivanhoe was a thriving residential and business community. They watched as U.S. Highway 71 bisected the neighborhood, eliminating whole blocks of homes. They saw their streets become infested with crime and blight, and change from a mix of races to mostly all black.

The Story Behind Kansas City's House Of Cards

Jul 9, 2014
Cara McClain / KCUR

Have you ever driven through the Historic Northeast neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., and seen a building with playing cards instead of windows? 

That's the house of cards, an abandoned apartment building at 7th and Indiana streets, that community members used to create public art. After a couple of years of dormancy, there's now some renewed interest to continue the effort.

Here's the story of how that project began: 

A couple years back, the Historic Northeast neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., had a problem.

Ivanhoe is a neighborhood on Kansas City’s east side with a rich history. Though recent decades have brought on hard times, the community, led by spokeswoman Margaret May, has rallied to restore its former glory. Some residents are frustrated by vacant houses on their blocks, while others love the new farmer’s market and point–with a sigh of relief—to reduced crime rates.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Few neighborhoods in Kansas City. Mo., have faced as many problems as the Ivanhoe neighborhood in the city's urban core.

Crime, drug houses, frequent vacancy, and trash buildup have plagued the area for decades, but neighborhood residents have been working towards change. 

Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council Executive Director Margaret May has worked in the neighborhood since 2001, and has seen it blossom as residents like Ida Dockery take ownership and responsibility for cleaning it up.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

There are thousands of vacant lots in Kansas City, Mo. In the Ivanhoe neighborhood, from 31st Street to Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard and Prospect to Paseo, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council owns more than 150.

"Every lot can't be a community garden. Every lot can't be an urban farm. So it's like, what else can we do with these lots?" asks Dina Newman, who's coordinating a project in Ivanhoe called LOTS of Love.

Laura Ziegler

The Historic Northeast has a concentration of social services such as soup kitchens, shelters and health centers.

And the services tend to draw large numbers of the homeless to the area.

During the past year and a half, residents have been organizing to deal with some of the accompanying issues, like excess trash, sanitation and property damage. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A rusted metal "No Trespassing" sign hangs on a post outside the boarded-up Thacher School in the Historic Northeast in Kansas City, Mo.

On the other side of the tall fence, the grass is neatly trimmed and the empty parking lot is litter-free. The brick exterior, once a popular canvas for graffiti artists, has been scrubbed mostly clean. A single blue doodle is the only evidence of vandalism neighbors say was once common at the vacant school.

Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library / Kansas City, Mo.

Earlier this year, we embarked on a year-long investigation of the lines that divide and unite us — starting with a look at Troost Avenue.

The road has been used as a border for many things, including neighborhood associations, census tracts, political districts and public schools. 

Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library / Kansas City, Mo.

Cliff Drive in Kansas City, Mo., hugs the limestone bluffs that separate the stately turn-of-the-century mansions in the Historic Northeast neighborhood from the industry and train tracks of the Missouri River bottoms.

The road was purchased from the estate of Reverend Nathan Scarritt around 1900.

Scarritt and his family were early settlers in Illinois, and moved to Missouri in the mid-1820s as pioneers.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Artists have a reputation for moving into places others don’t – turning areas once full of empty buildings into thriving districts, such as the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Mo. So, it’s not surprising they’d take a look at the thousands of vacant lots and vacant houses in the city, exploring everything from sculpture parks to art galleries on some of the least desirable lots.

Creating a new space with a purpose

Peggy Lowe / KCUR

The homicide epidemic among young black men on Kansas City’s east side is leaving a generation of grieving teens in its wake, and some in the crime-fighting community feel black churches need to change their message to better help these young people deal with their loss.

The Black Archives of Mid-America

The Black Archives of Mid-America has provided a place to learn about African-American history in Kansas City, Mo., for the past four decades.  

And during that time, it has amassed a vast collection of papers, photographs and even physical structures to show what life was like as a black Kansas Citian. 

As the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, we wanted to know more about the types of materials in the collection that started in 1974, when Horace Peterson III founded the Black Archives.

(Peggy Lowe/KCUR)

There’s a hush in the community room at the Lucile H. Bluford Public Library at 30th and Prospect streets, something like the quiet in a church just before the service starts.

The two dozen folks gathered here at 6 p.m. on a Monday night in June want to hear from the four sitting as a panel in the front of the room, people that despite their young ages, have years of mourning to share.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Recently, Kansas State University researchers visited every park in Kansas City, Mo., to analyze the distribution of parks and park amenities throughout the city.

They found low-income neighborhoods, including Kansas City's east side, have fewer playgrounds than high-income neighborhoods. That’s in spite of having a higher concentration of parkland in those same neighborhoods. Researchers studied 219 parks and about 12,000 acres of parkland.

Green space in low-income areas

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Kansas City’s Historic Northeast is known for its great cuisine and iconic old homes.

But it also grapples with a reputation of vandalism and other crime, says Lisa Donnici, who moved to the Historic Northeast roughly 14 years ago.

Her relationship with the area — made up of six distinct Kansas City neighborhoods that are just south of the Missouri River — goes back much farther, however.

She grew up there as a child, but her mother moved the family away so Donnici could attend schools in the suburbs. Marriage brought her back to the area.

Courtesy / Brancato family

Thousands of dancers flocked each week to the Fairyland Park Dance Pavilion in Kansas City, Mo., in the decades between opening day in 1923 and when the park closed in the 1977.  The park was owned by the Brancato family, a family of Italian immigrants and successful business people who'd come to the United States at the turn of the century.

Charvex / Wikimedia Commons

As part of KCUR's Beyond Our Borders series, Central Standard met with a handful of residents of Kansas City's historic Northeast to hear about the people and projects shaping the future of that part of town. In particular, artist Hector Casanova told us about his project working with students to transform a boarded-up old school building in the neighborhood by treating its surfaces as a giant canvas.

Russell Mondy / Flickr-CC

This year, KCUR is embarking on a project called "Beyond Our Borders," an attempt to take a closer look at the cultural and geographical borders in Kansas City.

The first border we are examining is Troost Avenue, which acts as a racial and socioeconomic dividing line in Kansas City's urban core. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

It’s a lofty goal for any charter – be the premiere public school in Missouri and a model for the rest of the country.

And for a new school, it’s especially bold. Yet that’s been the vision of the Kauffman School since before it opened.

This week while other metro-area kids were enjoying that first taste of summer, sixth graders at the Kauffman School were sitting in science class. It's quiet except for the scratch of pencil on paper.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Mamie Hughes, 85, stands in the middle of a bridge that’s named after her, and she marvels at the power of the road below. The power of Highway 71.

“Sometimes I just like to stand here and look and watch the traffic,” she says as cars and semis zoom underneath. “Seeing how much goes, and it’s just kind of fun.”

The Mamie Hughes Bridge crosses Highway 71, or Bruce R. Watkins Drive as it’s also known, at Meyer Boulevard.

Pages