Kansas City funds will boost two Jazz District projects

07/24/2013 1:12 PM

07/24/2013 11:21 PM

Two long-delayed building projects in and near the 18th and Vine Jazz District are about to get a fiscal boost from Kansas City taxpayers.

The City Council’s finance committee on Wednesday unanimously approved spending $500,000 to help complete the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center and agreed to spend $140,000 to aid renovation of the Boone Theater.

The full council is expected to ratify both decisions on Thursday.

The former Paseo YMCA in the 1800 block of the Paseo will be the home of the O’Neil center, an annex of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum two blocks to the east. When first proposed in 2006, O’Neil was alive and backers felt confident they could raise $15 million to restore the building, create new exhibits and add space for programming.

An opening was set for 2008. But after O’Neil’s death, fundraising slowed, the recession hit and the project was scaled back.

Now, it’s set to cost about $5 million, partly because plans for a new addition were dropped and partly thanks to the efforts of businessman Ollie Gates, who got local contractors to donate some of the work.

Some $3 million has been raised to far. More donations are coming in. But Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues museum, said the city funds will help finish at least two floors of the five-story building in time for its 100th birthday next year.

It was at that Y that the Negro Leagues were formed in 1920.

The city is also partnering with the Downtown Council and the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City to renovate the Boone building at 18th Street and Highland Avenue. It’s been boarded up for decades.

Overall, the project is expected to cost $2.5 million.

Two years ago, the arts council received a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for design and planning on the historic building. City funds will fulfill a grant requirement and help stabilize the building. When finished, it will become home to an arts organization.

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