KC councilman proposes red light entertainment district at 18th and Vine — but it’s not what you think

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A city councilman is proposing to make 18th & Vine a red light district, but it’s not what you think.

Brandon Ellington said it has nothing to do with sex or drugs and everything to do with zoning and tax dollars. 

The 3rd District At-Large councilman would like to see the district look a lot like Beale Street in Memphis, which is zoned the same way.

He’s working toward making 18th & Vine a community improvement district (CID) and overlaying it with a red light district by late July.

“It’s not like Amsterdam. I know that’s the first thing people think about,” Ellington said. “It creates a natural funding stream for things like security and other things that the property owners and business owners have been talking about. By rezoning it, it allows flexibility when it comes to development and incentives for developers.”

Ellington said by zoning it this way, they’ll be able to block off streets and allow people to move more freely.

“The CID would allow natural pooling of dollars for security, trash remediation and some of the other marketing things you see in the Power and Light and other successful entertainment districts,” Ellington said. “The red light district rezoning would allow the businesses to have more flexibility.”

He said the CID would add private security, support development, reduce violence and blight and keep taxes paid in the district going toward improvements there.

Henry Service, an 18th & Vine property owner, said he supports it.

“I wish there was an other word than red light district,” Service said. “It’s an excellent idea. We need that. We’re trying to survived down here just like every other district, and that kind of thing is going to help us survive.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas also wishes there was another way to say it. However, he supports the idea of a community improvement district and the ability to make it more focused on events.

“I absolutely support the idea of a community improvement district, and finding every possible way we can to allow for more businesses to be safe, be open, have better security, but also for more business to have better regulated traffic as you go through,” Lucas said.

“Shutting down streets, making sure that there are more pedestrian opportunities be it eating, walking, sitting — so I think that is a strong idea.”

Ellington brought up the subject at both the 18th & Vine committee meeting last week and the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee meeting.

There were no comments against the idea at either meeting by council, committee or public testimony. Many residents who attended the meetings favored the idea openly.

Ellington said his next step is to take his ideas to the election authority, and then bring it back to the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee on July 8.

He hopes the project will put 18th & Vine on track to success.

“If we get to blocking those streets off and having live entertainment outside, 18th & Vine becomes a poppin’ area again,” Ellington said.

On Friday, a request for proposals regarding development of 18th & Vine will go out through the city. Ellington hopes this proposal will be attractive to developers. 

He said his goal is to get the CID in place before August when Missouri House Bill 2235 is expected to become a law, which will change parameters on how a community improvement districts are approved.

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