Part of the bus tour I took of Kansas City Missouri included a stop at what was once the worst blighted and high crime neighborhood in Kansas City. Following the foreclosure crisis and the recession, this neighborhood was effectively abandoned, leaving high crime, violence, and terribly blighted conditions for the few remaining residents who couldn’t get out of the area.
Kansas City took the approach that the neighborhood was beyond repair and elected to clear the entire area and start over. The remaining residents were bought out and assisted with finding alternative living arrangements. The City then destroyed several city blocks of all structures and redesigned the neighborhood as a mixed use.
We toured the most recently finished street, which included $500,000 homes, all being purchased by new homeowners before completion.
Another section consisted of student housing for the local college…
We toured one of the houses under construction….
And the median in the middle of the street was filled with green infrastructure to absorb rainwater and not impact the local storm sewer system.
They gave a nice presentation on the path they took to successfully renovating this area.
The City acted as the developer of the project. Kansas City had the staff to be able to handle this function.
They waived income, property and sales taxes for an extended period in the area to encourage investment. All enticements were subject to remaining in property maintenance code compliance and on timely payment of Homeowner Association dues. Don’t comply and you lose your abatements.
They developed a three year plan that showed visible results each year for the public to see progress.
They created an Architectural Review Committee (ARC) for this development only. Each new structure had to be individually approved by the ARC before a building permit was issued by the City.
They kept the alleyways and created attached rear garages that made the rear area a “cool” place to hang out. The rear of the buildings had the same building materials as the front. In many cases in Ohio, the front is brick, with vinyl wrapping around the house. They insisted that the rear alleyway have the same look and materials as the street view. Neighbors had big screen TV’s in their garage and had block-wide cookouts during sporting events along the alley.
They looked at each smaller area and developed a plan for that particular area based on surrounding conditions, existing infrastructure, etc. Student housing was placed near the college, a plan was developed as to how new housing would fit on existing streets with water and sewer lines.
Although they are building $500,000 houses, they received HUD approval to use HUD funding to remove blight as part of the project costs.
They got the buy in both philosophically and financially from the philanthropic community.
They utilized the land bank extensively to seize abandoned properties and clear title issues. When someone wanted to develop a vacant land bank parcel, the land bank provided a deed in trust which required the builder/developer to meet neighborhood requirements in building, landscaping, etc., before title would transfer to the new homeowner. The deed of trust also required the new homeowner to pay dues into a homeowner’s association (HOA) that maintained common areas. If the homeowner failed to pay their dues, the HOA had enough clout to require payment or they could force title to revert back to the land bank.
There was a food desert in part of the development area, so they recruited a small grocery store to fill retail mixed-use space and also to deal with the lack of available healthy food in the area.
It was a well thought out project that received the support of the entire city.