Nearly 70 buildings were demolished on Kansas City’s east side to make room for a new police station and state-of-the-art crime lab. The $74 million Leon Mercer Jordan Campus, funded by a city public safety tax and bonds, opened to the public with tours of the facility at 2640 Prospect Avenue on Tuesday.
A jazz band played in the gymnasium, as visitors flocked to the Kansas City Police Department's new East Patrol division — walking through areas that are usually off-limits, such as interrogation rooms and holding cells. They also toured spaces that will stay open to the public, like the computer lab and community room.
"I think it's just wonderful," says Sharon Cheers, who's been following the project. Her grandparents lived nearby at 22nd and Forest, until the 1980s when they moved to make way for Bruce R. Watkins Drive.
"I think they've done it right, opening it up, making it spacious, putting in amenities for the community," she says. "So that law enforcement and the community can always work together and be together."
Alvin Brooks, former Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem and a retired police officer, stopped to talk while waiting in a line for the buffet. Brooks describes the opening of the East Patrol station as "bittersweet." He and his wife got married 65 years ago just a few blocks away.
"A number of people who are our age and a little older still lived there, owned their homes, and had to be uprooted," Brooks says. "But at the same time, there was a lot of decay, a lot of houses that were abandoned, drug activity, prostitution activity. And look at it now."
The 17-acre campus is named after Leon Mercer Jordan, a former police officer, politician and founder of Freedom, Inc. Jordan was killed in 1970 outside the Green Duck Tavern, just north of the police station.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @lauraspencer.