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Downtown Council has big plans for Kansas City, but what's in it for adjacent neighborhoods?

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Jake William Heckey
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The Downtown Council of Kansas City's "Imagine KC" plan would bring significant changes to the city's existing layout.

Changes to the city's core could have effects on outlying residents. It's just a question of how much and what kind.

There is a lot to absorb in the Imagine Downtown KC plan released by the Downtown Council of Kansas City.

It envisions the city in 2030 with new and revitalized parks, improved east-west corridors and a downtown ballpark.

But for Patricia Hernandez of the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association, the plan "doesn't go quite past a certain part to where it would impact my neighborhood directly."

"We're just kind of forgotten up in the corner," Hernandez says of the area where she and over 10,000 more Kansas Citians reside.

Hernandez believes her neighbors have concerns other than a baseball park.

"(They) are worried about their families. They're worried about schools. They're worried about their jobs," she says.

As for funding the multiple parts of Imagine KC, Graham Smith of the Gould Evans architectural design firm observes that "if this is intended to be paid with through public dollars, a lot of these larger projects, then that is certainly a concern."

What Smith finds interesting is the transformative strategies of the plan and "how we can take some of those things and tailor them or apply them to other areas of our community."

Smith acknowledges that "it is easy to look at the big, kind-of-sexy projects and think that those are going to be what moves the city forward."

Rather, he says, smaller investments in neighborhoods and housing are will drive development.

As for concerns that those big projects will cause the city to forget those smaller incremental steps, Hernandez says things have gotten better in that regard. She says members of the Downtown Council "are trying to reach out to the individual neighborhood associations."

Urban planner and designer Smith compliments the plan for "a good job of prioritizing projects as well as identifying people or groups of folks in the community . . . that should be included in working on some of these things."

A concern for Hernandez and her neighborhood association is "the makeup of the neighborhood, and how different it will be in ten years."

She envisions a number of the multi-generational families and friends that are not predominantly English-speaking moving out.

Yet, should her neighborhood see improvements from the plan, rents and property taxes and gentrification are all possibilities for Hernandez and her neighbors.

"I think it's a no-win situation, honestly," Hernandez says. "I think somebody's going to lose out here, and I'm scared it's going to be my families."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Eleanor Nash is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date. You can reach her at enash@kcur.org
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.
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