KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The announcement of four Whataburger locations around the Kansas City metro is sparking a conversation about development and the lack of franchise restaurants in the urban core.
Despite renovations and redevelopment of key and high traffic areas, many say the area continues to be overlooked.
“It’s sad that when other companies are being courted to come to your city, they look everywhere else but here,” local outreach leader Pat Clarke said. “It’s something we are used to in the urban core. Something we have had to deal with on the east side.”
Clarke said although the conversation was sparked by Whataburger, the problem is much deeper.
“We can’t get a QuikTrip on the east side, but if you go to Independence, you have a QuikTrip every four blocks!” he said. “If our money’s good out there, why isn’t it any good here?”
Once a food desert, Prospect Avenue now boasts a grocery store, and across the street, there are two newly redeveloped shopping centers.
Developers like Donald Maxwell say they’ll continue working to revitalize the area.
“We have to do it ourselves. Nobody else is going to do it for us,” he said. “I am all in favor of doing it ourselves. We haven’t had the resources necessary to redevelop our own community. We are taking advantage of a few incentive programs that exist.”
Maxwell built Linwood Square shopping center 20 years ago but repurchased the site to renovate it. The project is complete with 100% occupancy, according to Maxwell.
He said despite the new face of the area, it continues to be discriminated against. Franchises don’t come to the urban core.
Bill Teel, executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, told FOX4 that most franchises rely heavily on demographics and traffic data, but he agrees, most are not always good at taking chances.
“We are still being overlooked,” Clarke said. “Somewhere along the line, you had to pass through me, pass by me, in order to build those places. Why not consider us here? Why not try us first?”
“It’s always a concern why we have such a hard time attracting major enterprises and new enterprises to our community where service is really needed,” Maxwell said. “It’s not saying anything to go out to Lee’s Summit. Not saying anything to go out to Johnson County. But make a statement and put something in the inner city and work with us to make sure their investment is protected.”