Although abandoned, the Linwood Shopping Center still has enough youthful potential to be a great asset for the midtown community that it once served.
The retail outlet that once had a full-service grocery store and drugstore opened in 1986 at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue, where St. Joseph Hospital had been before it moved south to Interstate 435 and State Line Road. When the hospital was demolished the rubble became the site for the 1983 nuclear blast aftermath in the ABC movie “The Day After.”
But the city’s multimillion-dollar investment in the shopping center will keep the wrecking ball away. The tax incentives and $13.25 million in bond proceeds approved by the Kansas City Council last week to redevelop the center certainly is a great use of public resources for a worthwhile project.
This also is a great time for the Linwood Shopping Center’s revival.
The new East Patrol Division police station and crime lab are bringing more people and an increased sense of safety to the area. The Lucile Bluford Branch of the Kansas City Public Library across from the shopping center stays busy and full of people.
No doubt, library-goers would love to be able to drop into the shopping center again to pick up things on their way home. The new full-service grocery store is to open in the center by Christmas 2017.
That should give East Side residents and even those from downtown more options and completely pull the area from being a food desert. The grocery store that had anchored the Linwood Shopping Center closed in 2007.
The store operator complained of theft from the store by pretend-to-be customers. Residents complained about the smell, overall lack of cleanliness, the poor food selection and high prices.
The old grocery in health department inspections had “critical” violations of excessive mold buildup in a sanitizer dispenser, mice droppings on canned food and other products and food stored in display cases at improper temperatures.
City officials will have to make sure that the company that runs the new store 10 years after the old one closed does a better job of stocking high quality food and a good variety of fruits and vegetables as well as other less perishable items that residents really need. The city will have to help provide better security at the site so that theft isn’t a problem for the new grocery store.
The shopping center also will have to advertise so that people in a 10-mile radius will want to shop at the grocery store, the surrounding restaurants and go to the other retail outlets.
In all likelihood, the re-opening of the Linwood Shopping Center will spur a revival of the surrounding neighborhood with existing homes and apartments being fixed up and occupied and in-fill housing on long-vacant lots being built.
It is far better than the shopping center remaining empty with the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of area residents for a rebirth of the center with the long-neglected area.