KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The area at 103rd and State Line in South Kansas City was once considered a dying area. Businesses left. Store fronts stood empty.
But that’s all changing.
During the Wednesday lunch rush at Cacao, the tables were full, and the servers were busy.
The restaurant opened in July at State Line Shopping Center on the northeast corner of 103rd and State Line. And already, business is heating up.
Twenty years ago, Afonso Esqueda worked in this shopping center with his Uncle Victor. In fact, it was next door at what was then Guadalajara Cafe.
“For several years, it was empty," Esqueda said of the shopping center back then. "I mean, this area, all the spaces were empty.”
Even Guadalajara Cafe left in 2012. But in 2018, the Esqueda family came back with Cacao because commerce came back.
“They are trying to renew the area,” he said. “For us, it’s that right moment.”
The Tesla dealership is slated to move from the Plaza to the State Line Shopping Center. New restaurants with new concepts (like a Panera Drive-Thru) are moving in.
The South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Vickie Wolgast said the development isn’t limited to 103rd and State Line. It spreads south to Red Bridge and Holmes, to Martin City and even Raymore.
Wolgast credits Cerner for bringing a campus to South Kansas City. It’s 6 miles from 103rd and State Line, and the campus is predicted to bring as many as 15,000 people to the area.
"I think that has really gotten people really excited about being out here," Wolgast said, "and moving businesses out here that can service those employees.
She also noted several other employers are now located in South Kansas City area, including Honeywell and Burns and McDonnell.
"It really is a rebirth for Kansas City," Wolgast said, "and we’re seeing a lot of great development out here."
Businesses like Cacao find that very appetizing.
But other businesses nearby have had to adjust. Just down 103rd toward Wornall is a place hit hard by flooding, twice, in 2017.
The strip mall and two surrounding buildings have been purchased by the city of Kansas City. City crews plan to demolish the three buildings this spring or early summer. It will turn the area into a Greenspace, along with a small parking area at the Indian Creek Trailhead.