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Kansas City's Westside is changing fast, and residents are worried they're being pushed out

Joe Arce, publisher of KC Hispanic News, speaks on Up To Date during a remote broadcast from Los Alamos Cocina on Thursday, September 21, 2023.
Zach Perez
KCUR 89.3
Joe Arce, publisher of KC Hispanic News, has been covering Kansas City's Latino population for over 26 years.

Residents of the Westside neighborhood say that gentrification — like the upcoming Pennway Point entertainment district — is forcing the Latino community out of the neighborhood with rapidly-rising property taxes.

Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood has been long known as a hub for the Latino community in the city.

But that is changing, and quickly. In 2000, 70% of residents in the Westside were Latino. Now, that number is less than 50%, while other neighborhoods in Kansas City are seeing those decreases made up in their own populations.

KCUR's Up To Date broadcasted from Los Alamos Cocina on Thursday to hear how residents are feeling about the change.

Westside residents told Up To Date that gentrification is forcing families with deep roots in the neighborhood out. The process is being sped up by outside developers and projects, like the upcoming entertainment district Pennway Point, that have caused property taxes to skyrocket in recent years.

“Houses had been passed on from parents to children,” said Paul Rojas, a lifelong resident of the Westside who was Missouri’s first Hispanic state legislator. “And children, with gentrification, have found a different avenue… whereby the houses are sold.”

Angelica Desimio still lives in a home that’s been in her family for generations. She’s proud that her daughter will grow up there, too. But rising property values have been hard on her family.

“Our taxes went up 400%,” Desimio said. “And then it went up another 66%.”

And while Desimio was able to afford that increase, she says a lot of her neighbors can’t.

The Westside Chapter 353 Redevelopment Plan is available to Westside residents to help offset rising property taxes. Between 2018 and 2020, the neighborhood experienced an average value increase of 128%.

But the plan is controversial among residents, said Joe Arce, the publisher of KC Hispanic News.

"They can't agree on a 353 the way they want it," Arce said. "They're wanting it, they need it. And because of the division within the community, they have not been able to move forward with it."

Arce grew up in the Westside, but moved away as an adult. KC Hispanic News, which has been publishing for more than 26 years, still operates from the Westside on the same street Arce grew up.

Arce calls the Westside "God's country."

"It's given me so much," Arce said. "It's given me an opportunity to speak my language, which is Spanish. And it's given me the richness of the culture. And I really have an appreciation for that."

  • Augustin "Gus" Juarez, owner ofLos Alamos Cocina
  • Angelica Desimio, Westside resident
  • Paul Rojas, Missouri's first Hispanic state legislator
  • Joe Arce, publisher, KC Hispanic News

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