When false information is repeated enough times, it becomes the truth for some people. That has been the case for the misconception that the city isn’t doing anything to help neighborhoods east of Troost.
I grew up at 44th and Montgall, and I’ve lived in this city nearly my entire life. I rode my bike with my brothers in neighborhoods east of Troost. I delivered The Call newspaper to homes east of Troost. I learned a lot of life lessons on streets east of Troost. Those streets, and the families who live there, mean even more to me now than they did back then (you get a bit wiser as you age). So during my time as mayor, I’ve tried hard to do right by those neighborhoods and the people who still call them home.
Since 2011, over $2 billion in major developments, ranging from housing and commercial real estate to infrastructure and capital improvements have been approved, broken ground or been completed just in the area east of Troost, south of the river, and north of 63rd Street. The frosty staff in our Planning Department put these maps together to illustrate activity that has occurred since 2011.
I’m very proud that two of the most notable projects our city has seen in decades — the $30 million Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant and the $14 million Urban Youth Baseball Academy – will help transform those respective neighborhoods that lie in our city’s east side. Both of those projects involve tremendous collaboration, a team of visionary thinkers and the will to push the envelope a bit. I can’t wait to see the results.
It’s also worth noting that the City purchased the Linwood Shopping Center when no one else would so that the residents in the area could have access to something that should not be a luxury – fresh food.
Bricks and mortar projects are certainly needed. They absolutely move neighborhoods forward. But so does building social capital, and we’ve been working on that as well.
Since 2011, within that same area of the city, we’ve hosted nearly 1,000 Mayor’s Nights events that have provided a safe, fun environment for about 75,000 young people to enjoy for 10 weeks during the summer. One very positive result of our engagement with our youth is that juvenile crime and victimization decreases between 16% and 18% when our programs are active.
Turn the Page KC, in partnership with Lead to Read, has recruited 715 volunteers to help children learn to read – just like I did when I was growing up in our small house a few blocks east of Prospect Avenue, and I’d climb up in the attic to get away from my two brothers and get lost in a Doc Savage novel. We’ve seen the needle move on third grade reading proficiency, which, while still way too low, has moved from a city-wide average 33% in 2011 to 49% last year.
It feels good to attend a ribbon-cutting for a new building, but it feels better to see the light bulb turn on in a child’s head when they learn to read.
The fact is, I have always been, and remain to this day, firmly committed to helping underdeveloped neighborhoods flourish. I love the opportunity to connect with thousands of people on a regular basis who live, work and play in Kansas City. Every resident of Kansas City is important, regardless of ZIP code, socioeconomic status, religion or anything else.
We’re continuing to focus future planning efforts east of Troost. Earlier this month, we submitted an application for a very competitive grant from the Department of Transportation that has, as its centerpiece, digitization of the Prospect Max bus route, supporting WiFi and information age kiosks that will enable citizens to engage with their city government. If we are fortunate enough to be awarded this grant, we could begin construction within the next 24 months.
And just last week, I proposed to Council a concept for the Shared Success Fund, which would channel funds the city gains from economic development projects in areas of town where development has come more easily to those areas where development has been more difficult to attract. Over time, the Shared Success Fund will be another tool we have at our disposal to promote development in severely distressed neighborhoods.
To the people I serve who live in our city’s eastern neighborhoods, the city hasn’t forgotten about you. I haven’t forgotten about you. Far from it. We’re going to do a better job of telling you about all things going on in your neighborhoods. The fact is, there is more going on east of Troost now than at any time in decades and there are some great stories to tell. We are working hard and will continue to do so. And that’s the truth.
Eastside Development Map: