A notorious intersection on Kansas City’s East Side achieved another milestone in renewal on Sunday with the ceremonial opening of the Morningstar Youth & Family Outreach and Career Development Center at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue.
Where drunks and drug dealers once tossed bottles and needles, a new 13,000-square-foot facility will offer educational programs for youths and services for seniors.
More than 100 people gathered to celebrate the first phase of a dream brought forth a quarter-century ago by the Rev. John Modest Miles of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church next door at 27th Street and Wabash Avenue. The late banker and civic leader William C. Nelson helped Miles in his quest.
The project, still in need of some landscaping and other finishing touches, is the result of raising more than $5 million in private and government funds to acquire decrepit and vacant properties on the southwest corner of 27th and Prospect.
“When people ask us what the city’s role is and why we’re involved in these projects, it is very simple,” said John A. Wood, city director of neighborhoods and housing services. “It is because we want to bring an end of darkness in the community, of chronic blight, nuisance and disinvestment, and bring more light into the community with new investment, new opportunity, a stronger and vibrant neighborhood and ultimately to improve lives.”
Directly across the street is the police department’s new East Patrol station and crime lab. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority plans to begin a new MAX rapid bus route on Prospect Avenue. And the city hopes to break ground by the end of the month on a new full-service grocery not far away at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue.
And Miles said he hopes to begin work this fall on a new senior housing facility south of the youth and family life center.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James called it all “catalytic urban development.”
Several speakers, including Jackson County Executive Frank White and Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, recalled growing up not far from the intersection.
“I’ve been around long enough to have seen our neighborhood when it was vibrant, and also long enough to see it suffer,” White said. “That is why this day is so special to me, because the building of this center helps transform our neighborhood. It is a source of pride.”