A major $30 million federal grant awarded to Kansas City this week aims to rebuild a crumbling public housing project and revitalize a Historic Northeast neighborhood in the process.
The grant will help pay for an intricate plan to revitalize the Paseo Gateway neighborhood just east of Interstate 35, bounded by Chestnut Trafficway to the east, Ninth Street to the south and Cliff Drive to the north.
Kansas City's "Paseo Gateway Transformation Plan" aims to improve the neighborhood through a collaboration with local education, health care, and business organizations.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro came to the Paseo Gateway Monday along with Kansas City Mayor Sly James to announce the grant.
"We love to collaborate with cities like Kansas City to create stronger neighborhoods," Castro said in a prepared statement.
He also referred to the Paseo Gateway neighborhood, which has one of the metro's highest rates of residential poverty, as the "Ellis Island" of Kansas City, owing to its diversity and reputation for being an immigrant hub in the metro.
At the heart of the revitalization effort will be the razing of the Chouteau Courts public housing projects in the southwest corner of the Paseo Gateway neighborhood, to make way for a mixed-income development.
The 500 or so residents of the Chouteau Courts will be given a raft of personal supports to help them wade through a lengthy transition process, as they temporarily move out of their aging apartments to make way for the new development.
"All the parties agree that it is paramount that the residents be the central focus from day one," says Jim MacDonald of the United Way of Greater Kansas City.
To that end, MacDonald says the United Way will use its share of the grant money to hire between three to five new case managers who will work with residents to make sure they have "ready access to supports" like nearby Head Start facilities, charter schools, and health care clinics, during the transition.
"The core of those supports will be that case manager relationships," MacDonald says. "It will be important for them to know of the supports available to them. It will be voluntary but we want the residents motivated to use these services."
The process of moving the Chouteau Courts residents out of their current units will most likely begin early next year. Edwin Lowndes, the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Kansas City, says the first 30 or so families to move out will be temporarily placed in a nearby housing complex called the Pendleton Flats.
He says the housing authority also is working to shore up agreements with several other nearby housing complexes to ensure enough space for the more than 130 families who will eventually move out of Chouteau Courts.
"Families will not be displaced," Lowndes says.
Owing to the social services residents will receive (like the case manager counseling from the United Way), Lowndes says this project could serve as a model for future public housing revitalization projects.
"In the past, these types of projects have been totally focused on physical relocation, but there is a total neighborhood piece here that we think will bring services to the entire community," Lowndes says.