KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Phase one is done, and now it’s time to look ahead to what’s next for 18th and Vine. That’s the message city leaders shared during a public announcement Wednesday at the Jay McShann Pavilion at 17th and Vine Streets in Kansas City, Mo.
“We can’t forget about the history on which we stand on,” Third District City Councilman Jermaine Reed said. “Over the last year, we have made incredible strides, and we’ve witnessed momentum here at 18th and Vine.”
“Let’s make sure when we come to you (the City Council) and ask for Phase Two, that we continue the momentum,” said Kevin Simmons, 18th and Vine Development Policy Committee member. “Let’s not stagnate. Let’s not study. Let’s not continue to stay in the same place.”
In 2016, the Kansas City City Council approved $27.6 million in funding for the redevelopment of 18th and Vine Historic District. This is a place that thrived in the early 20th century as many jazz musicians played near the baseball fields where the Negro League thrived. Over the decades, the area fell into disrepair. The city has spent tens of millions of dollars over the last three decades to redevelop this area to make it a popular tourist spot. Up to this point, reviews have been mixed. But city leaders believe their latest efforts will do the trick.
Over the past year, the city spent $7 million on Phase One, which included street repair along with renovations to the Blue Room, Gem Theater and Boone Theater. City leaders say their efforts have attracted more than $44 million in private investment, including the construction of the Urban Youth Baseball Academy, which the Kansas City Royals run to bring baseball to inner city youth.
“What‘s happening around here is indicative of what we can continue to leverage with further investment in this corridor,” Kansas City City Manager Troy Schulte said. “We’ve got good things happening with that first seven million…Imagine what we can do with the next two phases.”
In phase two, city leaders want to spend $2.9 million to complete the Buck O’Neil Education Center, which sits in the former Paseo YMCA building. This is where the Negro Baseball League was formed, and they hope to have renovations done in time for the 100 year anniversary in 2020. They also want to spend $2.8 million on the 18th and Vine Gateway and use other monies for other projects including the renovation of the American Jazz Museum.
“We’re not letting our history be lost,” Third District At-Large Quinton Lucas said. “We’re making sure that this area, which was the heart and soul of the black community for decades, continues to be the heart and soul of our community today. This is a vital asset for KC, it’s a vital asset to the region, and it is key for growth and redevelopment in the Kansas City Third District.”
But where will the money come from?
Schulte wants to use sales tax money to pay for these improvements, but some city leaders say that money is already earmarked for other projects. Some hope donors might step forward and invest in this vision of making this historic district an even bigger tourist destination.
City leaders released a 24-page report on the progress of 18th and Vine so far. To read it, click or tap here.