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New business owners ‘elated’ to be part of future of Kansas City’s 18th and Vine district

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you’ve strolled through Kansas City’s Jazz District lately, then you might have noticed several new businesses popping up.

“I’m so glad to be here. I’ve always known I would become a business owner, and I’m elated to be a part of history,” said a smiling 26-year-old Sharekka Byrd, the co-owner of Bayou on the Vine.

Six months ago Byrd, her parents and a few other relatives opened the new, family-owned restaurant, which features Cajun-style cuisine and live music, at the corner of 18th Street and Vine.

“We kind of wanted to capture some of Louisiana and bring it here to Kansas City,” Byrd said.

The Byrds have a vested interest in the 18th and Vine district.

“Many years ago, my late grandfather, Tutty Gadson, was a famous jazz musician known around Kansas City and the world," Byrd said. "He played in the Jazz District all the time, and so it only makes sense that my family and I bring our businesses to the area where our history, where our legacy started."

Just a few doors down from Bayou on the Vine, rapper Walter “The Popper” Edwin, who made a name for himself last year after teaming up with Tech N9ne on the hit song “Kansas City,” has now put on a new hat.

“Man, I am so excited about being down here in the Jazz District. I want to help generate growth in this area,” Edwin said.

In three weeks, Edwin will open his new “I’m KC Clothing Store” in the popular entertainment district.

“I just think we need to bring the money back to the 18th and Vine District,” Edwin told FOX 4’s Robert Townsend on Thursday.

Edwin and Byrd are just two of what city officials hope will be many business owners who choose to set up shop in Kansas City’s Jazz District.

During the early 1900’s, the Jazz District attracted countless crowds from the metro and around the world.

“There’s just so much rich culture and history here. This was, and to me still is, one of the birthplaces of jazz, “ city architect Eric Bosch said.

Now, city officials hope their $27 million makeover -- which includes turning old office and empty spaces into new jazz clubs, restaurants and retail stores and revitalizing the old Boone Theatre -- will give the Jazz District and the city a long-awaited economic boost.

“Some developers have already talked to us about the potential of the Boone Theatre building," Bosch said. "Overall, we’re looking at 28,000 square feet, and it’s all on the main street level. The buildings down Vine Street, we reconditioned some of those and stabilized them, and then we’re going to completely redo 18th Street with a new waterline and streetscape, new lights, brighter lights."

Byrd and Edwin said they hope to do business in the Jazz District for a long time.

“I think I’m here to stay,” Edwin said.

“As long as my customers are coming and filling their stomachs, leaving with a smile and coming back the next day, then I’m OK," Byrd said. "Also, for people who are thinking of coming down here and starting their own business, I strongly encourage it. We need more businesses down here."