Kansas City officials met Wednesday at the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District to mark a year’s progress since the City Council approved $7 million in funds for the area.
But they acknowledged much more work, and millions more dollars, are needed to help the district reach its full potential.
“The stakes are high,” 3rd District City Councilman Jermaine Reed said. “Our work here is about creating a connected and vibrant destination.”
He said citizens are watching to make sure city funds are well spent. He also said the city can’t do it all, and the area needs robust partnerships and investments from the private sector and nonprofits as well.
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“We have much work left to do,” agreed Quinton Lucas, 3rd district at-large councilman.
In July 2016, the city council approved $7 million to jumpstart district improvements, but that’s just the first phase of what’s envisioned as a three-phase, $27 million overall improvement plan for the district. City Manager Troy Schulte predicted the city will spend most of the $7 million in 2017 and 2018, and will then try to identify funding sources for the next $10 million.
Much of the spending so far has been for property acquisition, demolition and design, although some construction is also starting. This is all in addition to the $19 million Urban Youth Baseball Academy that is well underway in the nearby Parade Park and should be completed in late September.
Key investments planned or already started include:
▪ About $435,000 to help create a “Great Lawn,” enhancing the amphitheater north of the American Jazz Museum and providing a connection from the museums to the baseball academy.
▪ $1.5 million for the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, 2814 Paseo. The first floor is complete and construction starts next year on upper floors.
▪ $1 million to build a lighted, landscaped, 210-space parking lot at 18th and Lydia, with construction starting this fall. It will serve the district and the baseball academy.
▪ $1.5 million for 18th Street landscaping, lighting and other features from Paseo to Woodland. That’s the first part of a broader 18th Street improvement to connect the district with the Crossroads to the west.
▪ $1.2 million to stabilize the historic Boone Theater, with potential as a future events space.
Greg Patterson and Associates has been selected to help lease up the district’s vacant storefronts and restaurant spaces. At Wednesday’s event, Patterson said he’s been encouraged by the momentum of the past few months.
“I really feel confident, with the investment of the city money,” he said. “We have a lot of interest.”
Patterson said 17,000 square feet of retail space is available, and he hopes to start signing new tenants within six months or even earlier.