Residents excited for new residential development near KC Neighborhood Academy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It all begins with a school.

New development is coming to one east Kansas City neighborhood, and property developers plan to center it all around a popular elementary school.

The project, which is locally driven by Kansas City's Urban Neighborhood Initiative, works through a model called Purpose Driven Communities.

During the next five years, Chicago-based Brinshore, a development firm, plans to build mixed-income housing centered around the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, a charter school.

"Who will live, and who will die?" Dianne Cleaver, Urban Neighborhood Initiative President, rhetorically asked an audience outside the school Thursday.

Cleaver cited statistics that prove the quality of a child's neighborhood can determine his or her life expectancy. Cleaver also said strength of children's education and security of housing also play major factors.

"We at UNI believe that every single person deserves to live in an environment that is healthy and offers them an equal opportunity. That's what our work is all about," Cleaver said.

A two-block area in the Wendell Phillips neighborhood, which borders on the academy property, will soon be cleared of woods and brush, and Brinshore will begin this revitalization.

Brinshore leaders presented photos from other cities, including Atlanta, Omaha and Grand Rapids, Michigan, displaying the company's method of centering mixed-based houses near charter schools.

"That's an important part of the community," said David Brint, Brinshore's co-founder. "When you get that sort of opportunity to find that kind of public support in a focused area, we're interested in working with that. We can make a lot of change with our planning and development background. That leadership is here."

Brint said a combination of federal tax credits, local and state funding and philanthropy will be used to fund the development. Brint commented that his company is still sorting out money matters, but if all goes well, Brinshore could begin this 5-year project within the next 12-to-18 months.

Brint also said students at Kansas City Neighborhood Academy will be asked for their input, too, since this is the neighborhood they'll lead one day.

"That's an important part of the community. An important part of the effort is to hear from the community and tell the community what we're doing so they're not surprised," Brint added.

Grown-ups living here, including Ashley Wiley and David Charity, believe this plan can connect the Wendell Phillips neighborhood to 18th and Vine, and, in turn, secure a fruitful future for their kids.

"I really want to hear what our students came up with," Wiley told FOX4. "They go to school here. When they come out to garden or working every week to get it up and running for sports and stuff, we don't want to look at this. We want to see something nice and beautiful so that way, it can grow into something better."

"They always say education is the key to a lot of things. In order to develop things, you have to have people who are aware and astute enough to do so," Charity said.

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