Developer building new homes east of Troost, where development is scarce

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What was old can be new again.

That's the thought process behind one real estate developer's plan to revitalize east Kansas City's older neighborhoods, but some current residents aren't sold.

Lance Carlton, who operates UC-B Properties says he knows how to drive families back to the urban core. Since last June, his firm has been working on 21 vacant homes and empty lots near 54th and Tracy Avenue it purchased from nearby Rockhurst University.

"We have a mission," Carlton explained on Thursday.

Carlton, 43, a Connecticut native who has called the Kansas City area home for five years, says his team wants to make new homes, such as the three houses that sit at that intersection beside Rockhurst University's baseball field, available to young families for purchase. Carlton says UC-B is concentrating on homes east of Troost Avenue, where, historically, very little new construction is taking place.

"You're in the urban core. You're closer to where you work. You're closer to downtown where there are all those amenities," Carlton told FOX 4 News.

Some of the neighborhoods where Carlton work's, which includes 30 homes he's worked on east of Troost Avenue, are former nesting spot to boarded-up houses -- land bank houses KCMO demolition crews have torn down during the past few years. Mayor Sly James was one of many who pointed out the dangerous nature of those old houses, which provided criminals a place to engage in ruthless activity. Carlton says he believes the neighborhoods east of Troost are turning around, and his plan can help, and he's witnessed it in the additional 30 east Kansas City homes he's rehabbed.

"Crime is dwindling and I'd say in neighborhoods like this, you'd have the same amount of crime as you would west of Troost," Carlton said

"I think the young millennials, who are just out of college, are used to being in more urban situations. Most of these universities are in denser towns. They don't want to move to a cookie cutter neighborhood. They want to move downtown."

Rockhurst sits only two blocks east of Troost Avenue. UC-B, according to Carlton, tries to protect historic architecture when possible, while selling houses at a fair price for the neighborhood. UC-B also has projects being built in the Manheim and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. Carlton says his revitalization plan targets neighborhoods that neighbor colleges and large employers and attractions, such as hospitals and the Country Club Plaza.

"Those aren't going anywhere. They're going to be here through the recessions and the good times, and they're always going to be major employers," Carlton said.

Some Rockhurst residents say they're not sold on Carlton's plan. Kathy Gray, who says she's called that neighborhood her home since the early 1980's. She lives next door to one of UC-B's new builds, and, although she realizes her property values would rise, she's concerned that too much prosperity could change her neighborhood for the worse.

"It has its good and bad things," Gray said. "Some of us who are here because it's a lower price neighborhood suddenly will have really high property taxes, possibly. That's sort of scary. I might have to move if it gets so nice over here."

And, to that, Carlton says he hopes people will be patient and give this plan time to work. He tells me he believes current residents will reap the rewards once their neighborhoods take a turn toward better living, with those new houses as part of them.