The city’s purchase of a vacant Northland building could provide area residents a community pool for kids to learn to swim and a recreational facility for families — amenities similar to those found in newer neighborhoods, advocates of the proposed project said.
City Council members in September approved an eighth amendment to the North Oak Tax Increment Financing Plan – also referred to as the Redevelopment Plan – which includes the purchase of the former YMCA at 1101 NE 47th St. in Kansas City, North. The facility closed its doors in December 2014.
“In the southern part of my district, those homes were built before this concept of community neighborhood pools. We don’t have a place for our kids to go to swim,” said councilwoman Heather Hall. “If we do, we have to go to North Kansas City. They don’t have a lot of options for their children and they want those just like everybody else.”
The city purchased the facility for $275,000 with Tax Increment Financing Commission money as part of a four-part plan that includes improvements to infrastructure in the area and better walking and biking capability for residents. The city has $450,000 in TIF funding for the purchase and rehabilitation of the former YMCA.
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Advocates said specific plans for the property — which sits on six acres of land — are still undecided, but they hope to restore the space into a recreational facility.
“The options are wide open right now,” said Mark McHenry, director at Kansas City Parks and Recreation. “We want to provide a good community resource.”
Also included in the amendment is the construction of a recreational trail that would run from Vivion Road to Englewood Park.
“All of that is enhancing the ability to bike or walk in an older neighborhood,” said councilman Scott Wagner.
“I’d love to see a trail connection all the way to Smithville Lake,” said Northland resident Henry Clark, 66. “I don’t feel really safe riding a bike on a street. There are too many crazy drivers and people who don’t pay attention to what they’re doing.”
Construction for the $1 million project will begin in early 2017 and take less than one year to complete.
A walkability study for the area around Crestview and Briarcliff elementary schools is also in the works. Deb Hermann, executive director of Northland Neighborhoods Inc., said safer and more accessible ways to get to school are long overdue, citing deep ditches, narrow streets, and a lack of walkways in the area.
“The kids have nowhere to walk,” Hermann said. “It’s been an issue for a long, long time.”
Kansas City Parks and Recreation will oversee the $100,000 study, which should take about six months to complete, Hermann said.
The Neighborhood Improvement and Grant Program, also included in the Redevelopment Plan, would offer a boost to struggling businesses along North Oak Trafficway from NE 32nd Street to I-29. The program would allocate up to $100,000 to assist local business owners in refurbishing their buildings and infrastructure.
“Many of the businesses along North Oak could really use some assistance,” Hermann said. “You can certainly see some blight, some deterioration, and small business people trying to lift things up.”