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Destruction Of Blighted Building At 27th And Prospect Seen As ‘Catalyst for Change’

Aviva Okeson-Haberman
KCUR 89.3
The demolition of a blighted building at 27th and Prospect began Wednesday.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has begun demolition of a long-vacant, one-story building on the southeast corner of 27th and Prospect that residents consider a blight on the neighborhood.

It’s part of a larger economic stimulus for the area, including a $74 million police station across the street built a couple of years ago and a 1/8th-cent sales tax to spur economic development along the Prospect Avenue corridor.

“The things that have led to the problems that have existed historically on the east side of Kansas City have been here for decades and decades and decades,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said at a ceremony to mark the demolition Wednesday. “We are trying to chip away at those problems one year at a time.”

27th and Prospect was the focus of a 1997 HBO documentary with the same name about efforts to fight substance abuse and address gun violence in the area.

“We wanted to reclaim our community and make a difference in our community,” said John Modest Miles, pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.

KCATA president and CEO Robbie Makinen said the building’s removal will help promote community and economic development. The median household income in the area is $21,875, according to data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey.

“We obtained this building for one reason only and that is to tear this sucker down,” Makinen said.

Joseph Jackson, a former head of the neighborhood council, said he’s been waiting for the building’s removal for years. Jackson is involved with Prospect MAX, a $54 million bus rapid transit line which will run along Prospect.

“The corridor is beginning to come back to life, but we … have to make sure also that we can have affordable housing,” Jackson said.

The demolition is expected to be completed in two weeks. KCATA hopes the cleared property will attract potential investors.

“This is a catalyst for change. This is a catalyst for progress,” Urban League President and CEO Gwen Grant said.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @avivaokeson.

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