It’s too late for Santa, but boosters of Kansas City’s 18th and Vine Jazz District are putting the finishing touches on a wish list of improvements for the City Council to consider in January.
So far, the recommendations total $7 million, although a new parking garage could add millions to that cost. The list includes work to support the Buck O’Neil Center, Kansas City Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the American Jazz Museum, Black Archives of Mid-America and the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
“This is the crown jewel of our city in terms of the historical nature that is on 18th and Vine,” said 3rd District City Councilman Jermaine Reed, who has worked with other Jazz District supporters for more than a year to develop the list of needed upgrades. “This is an area of town that cannot be forgotten.”
Reed and 3rd District at-large Councilman Quinton Lucas are sponsoring a resolution asking the city manager to develop a financing plan and prepare a study for a garage or surface parking to supplement the improvements.
The council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee is expected to consider the request at its Jan. 6 meeting.
“I’m interested in increasing the numbers of people into the area,” said Lucas, a member of the committee. He said the improvements would bolster the appeal of the various facilities for both residents and visitors and are intended to be a catalyst for more restaurants, retail and private investment.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, businessman Ollie Gates and others have also worked on the planning for these Jazz District enhancements. In a statement, Cleaver said the additional investments should build on the nearby Urban Youth Baseball Academy, set to open next fall in Parade Park behind the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
“There appears to be universal political will to get something done to the historic Jazz District,” Cleaver said.
The financing could come in the form of a general obligation bond or some other funding mechanism, said Reed, who is requesting the city manager’s report within 60 days after the council adopts the resolution.
The measure also calls for a parking study, although Reed said he may go ahead and request funding for a parking structure for motorists coming to the district’s attractions.
The resolution is not an ordinance and does not bind the city to any funding requirements. But it outlines needs that Reed said have been considered for many months.
Among the requests and preliminary cost estimates:
▪ $1.5 million for an open-air plaza and fountain on the south side of 18th Street between the Paseo and Vine Street, to serve as the western gateway to the district.
▪ $1 million to complete several floors of the Buck O’Neil Center, which has already had considerable private investment from Ollie Gates and other donors. The center, near 19th and the Paseo, is in the former Paseo YMCA.
▪ $2 million to help fund a new headquarters and performing arts center for the Kansas City Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, on 18th Street between Highland and Woodland avenues. The public-private partnership would include preserving the Boone Theater facade.
▪ $750,000 for new exhibits for the American Jazz Museum, 1616 E. 18th St.; $750,000 for the Black Archives, 1722 E. 17th Terrace; $200,000 for the Lincoln Building, 1601 E. 18th St.; and $140,000 for the Mutual Musicians Foundation at 1823 Highland Ave.
Funding would also be provided to do some strategic demolitions, including the vacant Black Chamber of Commerce building, 1501 E. 18th St., and to improve the amphitheater behind the Jazz Museum.
Kansas City municipal government has invested more than $70 million in the 18th and Vine District since 1990, but no one is yet satisfied with the district’s vitality. Still, Reed said the city’s continued investment is needed and worthwhile.
“Our goal with the funds is to allow for us to get that facelift that’s needed,” he said, “and work toward redevelopment and revitalization.”
18th & Vine wish list
Here’s the list of 18th and Vine redevelopment projects and estimated costs:
1. Open-air plaza and fountain, south side of 18th between the Paseo and Vine Street: $1.5 million
2. Buck O’Neil Center, near 19th and the Paseo, $1 million.
3. Alvin Ailey Building, 18th and Highland Avenue, $2 million.
4. American Jazz Museum exhibits, 1616 E. 18th St., $750,000.
5. Black Archives of Mid-America, 1722 E. 17th Terrace, $750,000.
6. Mutual Musicians Foundation, 1823 Highland Ave., $140,000.
7. Demolition, $160,000.
8. Reconfigure outdoor amphitheater behind Jazz Museum, $500,000.
9. Lincoln Building, 1601 E. 18th St., $200,000.