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Northeast neighborhood greets news of motel demolition with excitement

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Longtime Northeast Kansas City neighbors are pumped up about an old building that's coming down. The city is set to tear down the old Royale Inn, off of Paseo Boulevard and Independence Avenue.

The city completed the purchase of the building last week, signed the deed Monday, and had the property secured by Wednesday. The process is rolling quickly to get the motel torn down and it's got longtime area residents celebrating.

Bobbi Baker-Hughes said she was thrilled when she found out the sale was complete.

"I popped a cork on some champagne! It's the beginning of a lot of celebrations," she said.

She's lived in the Northeast for 25 years and said the old Royale Inn has been an eyesore the entire time.

"What they see now is not what we as a community want people to perceive our community as being; the hell house on the hill," said Baker-Hughes, the president and CEO of the Northeast Chamber of Commerce.

"The excitement is starting to build in the community. There are Facebook posts that say everything just got boarded up."

Kansas City completed the nearly $2 million purchase last week and the property is now boarded up. Demolition will start as soon as asbestos-testing results come back, and the teardown should wrap up in two or three months.

"This is really a catalyst for the changing of that intersection and the entrance to the historic Northeast," Baker-Hughes said.

Spike Nguyen owns a French Vietnamese noodle shop just across the street from the Royale, near where the Capri once stood; another old motel that's been torn down. "Ten years ago if you asked me, I wouldn't want to be here either, but I've seen a whole lot of improvement," Nguyen said.

He continued with a laugh, "The other hotel is going down too, so wow, wow, wow!"

The news of the demolition plans put a big smile on Nguyen's face as he's watched what he calls "bad activity" for years, from across the street with a front row view.

"Everyone is doing what they can to make the neighborhood much better," Nguyen said.

When the walls crumble, Baker-Hughes hopes something else will come to a crashing halt.

"We hope that the illegal activities that were so prevalent at that address will also close."

A Kansas City spokesperson said the demolition of the motel is step one of a several-phase long project to renovate the Paseo Gateway, help economic development in the area, and make it a nicer place to live. After the motel comes down, the city will realign that intersection to help streamline the entry and exit off the highway. Officials are aiming for better traffic flow and fewer accidents.

The next step includes a more welcoming sign and entrance to designate the Paseo Gateway as the official entrance to the historic northeast neighborhood and downtown Kansas City.

The following phase includes re-housing residents at Chouteau Courts, a public housing area. The city said it's part of the push from a federal project to demolish problematic public housing, relocating residents, and the building newer projects around the city instead of concentrating them all in one place.