The nondescript Black Chamber of Commerce building at the corner of 18th Street and the Paseo was demolished Monday, and more demolitions are coming later this week to make way for a new phase of improvements to the 18th and Vine Jazz District.
City Manager Troy Schulte joined City Council members Jermaine Reed and Quinton Lucas on Monday to kick off the next phase of redevelopment for the jazz district, five months after the council unanimously approved $7 million for the neighborhood.
“Change does not happen overnight,” Reed said, acknowledging that the district has had numerous ups and downs since redevelopment efforts began in the 1990s. But he said the demolition was one significant step as the city sets the stage for more improvements, including streetscape lighting, landscaping and sidewalks along part of 18th Street to create a better connection to the Crossroads Arts District to the west.
The Black Chamber of Commerce building is not historic, so its removal will open up space for an enhanced entryway, and possibly commercial or mixed-use development, at the west end of the jazz district.
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Many people are familiar with the movie sets that Robert Altman installed in 18th and Vine for his 1996 movie “Kansas City.” Unfortunately, those painted facades have deteriorated badly over the years. Schulte said they, too, will be demolished this week.
Included in the $7 million was just under $500,000 to allow the city to acquire properties that were previously owned by the Jazz District Redevelopment Corp. The city hopes that with more centralized ownership, it can better coordinate and control the district’s future marketing and management.
Schulte said part of the money will be used to stabilize truly historic structures in the district, including the Boone Theater at Highland Avenue and East 18th Street. About $1 million will go for opening and fixing the first floor of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, in the former YMCA at 1824 Paseo.
As it seeks to entice more private investment, the city has released a request for proposals for the Boone Theater redevelopment, a request for qualifications for planning and architectural services for the American Jazz Museum and the Black Archives of Mid-America, and a request for proposals for a private entity to partner with the city on developing the block from 18th to 19th streets, Paseo to Vine street. These proposals are due Feb. 10.
The city has also launched a project update page with more detailed information about the 18th and Vine plans and phases.
But 18th and Vine continues to face challenges. Earlier this month, restaurant owner Paul Danny Gosserand was sentenced to seven years and 10 months in federal prison for selling kilograms of cocaine from his 18th and Vine restaurant, Danny’s Big Easy. The restaurant is now closed. It is privately owned, so the owners and investors will need to find a path forward for that property.