A three-story, stone-trimmed house just sold on the Paseo in Kansas City’s urban core. On the outside, the siding is white. On the inside, the walls are taupe.
And on paper, the color of this house is gold.
This four-bedroom home in the 2900 block sold late last year in a foreclosure for $26,500. The new owner cleaned it up and remodeled it, adding new windows, new bathrooms, even a new furnace. Then it sold this fall for close to its $90,000 asking price.
"We’re all going to wish we had bought some of these homes -- they keep going up in value," said Bart Clark, the Prudential real estate agent who marketed the house. "The neighborhood is coming back."
Actually, that applies to just about all the neighborhoods in a cluster The Kansas City Star calls the Ivanhoe-Paseo Corridor. In the entire city, this corridor experienced the highest housing appreciation this decade.
The average price of an existing home there more than doubled, from $35,328 in 2001 to $73,460 in 2005. That’s right, the average price doubled -- in an area with the city’s worst violent crime rate, no less.
This resurgence helped the Ivanhoe-Paseo Corridor stand out among its central-city peers in The Star’s comparison of neighborhood clusters using almost three dozen measurements.
The Star’s series on neighborhoods takes a look at a different section of the city each day. Today’s focus is the Historic Central City, basically north of Brush Creek and east of Troost Avenue or the Paseo. And in this part of town, Ivanhoe-Paseo emerged as a real poster child of urban renewal.
This is an area that developed a century ago alongside the jewel of Kansas City’s new boulevard system, the Paseo. Then, like the rest of the urban core, it suffered decades of decline and abandonment. At the dawn of the millennium, its own residents suggested a slogan for the neighborhood: "Dirty, nasty, trashy."
Now, the Ivanhoe-Paseo Corridor has been rediscovered -- by the real estate market.
"This hasn’t come about accidentally," said Margaret May, director of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council.
Partnerships of philanthropic funders and housing developers filled ugly, vacant gaps on the Paseo. Private rehabbers found a niche in the neighborhoods by buying beat-up but architecturally distinctive homes, fixing them up, then reselling them. And urban professionals realized they could get more house for the money here than on the city’s outskirts.
It’s a transformation that’s even spilled over into some longtime businesses. The old J.R. Foster Barber and Beauty Shop on 31st Street, for instance, remodeled this year, put in new cabinets and chairs for the first time anyone can remember, and even changed its name to Brooklyn Kutz.
"Customers have been coming here ever since they were little boys, and never seen this kind of change," said barber Donny Nelson.
The same could be said of the entire Paseo Corridor.
The Historic Central City section of town includes seven other neighborhood clusters besides Ivanhoe-Paseo. Those are: the Traditional Northeast north of Independence Boulevard, Lower Northeast south of that, plus Blue Valley, 18th and Vine, East Community Team, Vineyard and the Oak Park-Benton Corridor.
This is a section of town that’s long felt forgotten and neglected -- by fleeing families, by big retailers, by absentee landlords, by City Hall, even by its own residents.
The Star’s analysis of neighborhood trends bears this out. The Historic Central City’s eight neighborhood clusters were all so dirty that they occupied the bottom eight places in a litter index. And there’s so much ramshackle rental housing that all the clusters ranked in the bottom 11 citywide in housing conditions.
Still, The Star found plenty of bright spots across this section of town.
The Northeast neighborhoods had some of the city’s best street conditions. The Oak Park cluster along Benton Boulevard is so social that it had more neighborhood block parties than just about anywhere else. And the 18th and Vine area experienced the eighth-best drop in violent crime so far this decade.
"We’ve made some progress, but when a community has been ignored for years, they get fed up," said City Councilman Terry Riley, who represents part of the urban core.
The Ivanhoe-Paseo Corridor typifies some of the good and the bad of the central city. It has sort of a Jekyll and Hyde personality that way.
You can see this personality by driving through the neighborhoods. On one block, a distinctive three-story, three-toned brick house sits down the street from a behemoth former apartment building with all its windows broken out. On another block, recently constructed brick homes stand next to a boarded-up former drug house.
Gloria Nelson is used to seeing this, having lived there for more than two decades. But now she’s seeing something else: private and nonprofit builders putting up new homes. They’re filling gaps on blocks like replacing burned-out bulbs in a string of Christmas lights.
"People are buying property and building houses upon them all over here now," Nelson said.
Change on the Paseo
If there’s a symbol of the change overtaking the Ivanhoe-Paseo Corridor, it’s the Paseo itself.
In the 3800 block, there are new homes with wide front porches. In the 4200 block, there are new homes with double bay windows. In the 4400 block, new colonial-style homes with columns can be seen.
In all, new housing has filled more than 60 vacant lots on the Paseo between 31st and 47th streets. It happened through a partnership involving mortgage banker James Nutter Sr. and Neighborhood Housing Services development corporation, among others. Nutter bought and donated many of the lots.
"I wanted to show the people of Kansas City that it can be done, that these central-city neighborhoods can be cleaned up," said Nutter, a well-known political donor who decades ago was a pioneer lender to African-American neighborhoods.
The impact shows up in The Star’s statistics. The Paseo cluster ranked above average citywide in new and rehab housing permits the past few years. And the Paseo cluster ranked 11th of 42 clusters in new service businesses such as bakeries and doctor’s offices.
The impact shows up in home prices, too.
On the Paseo itself, a two-story stone house with double dormer windows near 40th Street was boarded up a couple of years ago when it sold for $40,000. This year, after being completely rehabbed, it is being bought for near its $120,000 asking price.
Off the Paseo, there are plenty more: 3333 Virginia Ave., bought last year for $34,000, then remodeled with entirely new kitchen and bathrooms, and now back on the market for an asking price of $200,000.
Robyne Turner, too, bought a house cheap, out of foreclosure for under $25,000. But she’s remodeling with the intention of staying. She’s white and moved from a mostly white neighborhood along Rockhill Road to a mostly black one because of the deal she got and a desire for more diversity.
"People say, ‘What is a white, upper-middle-class woman doing living here?’ I reply that Ivanhoe is a community in which I feel welcome as it strives to create diversity," said Turner, director of the Cookingham Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
"Urban revitalization is all about community. Other properties on my block are going through visible renovation, and people in the neighborhood are doing the renovating and living there. That’s a crucial part of bringing up and keeping up property values and being a community."
Not all is totally rosy in central-city real estate, however. There’s been a rampant problem with mortgage fraud, in which housing prices have been artificially raised because of illegally inflated appraisals. But, according to UMKC researchers, it hasn’t touched the Ivanhoe-Paseo cluster enough to cast doubt on its turnaround.
As it stands, Ivanhoe-Paseo’s real estate resurrection provides a lesson for other downtrodden neighborhoods: You need partners and a plan for a concentrated area.
Neighborhood Housing Services formed partnerships with private funders and banks to build new homes and offer loans for new homeowners. The Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council umbrella group worked on everything else, following a plan to forge partnerships on strategies ranging from cleanups to closing drug houses.
Then the market took over, with investors seizing opportunities.
Said Neighborhood Housing Services’ Mike Clarke: "It can be replicated."
And that offers hope for the rest of the central city.