KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City Kansas Community College plans to break ground on a new downtown campus next year.
But a longtime food kitchen is worried the project could force them out.
There were questions tonight from the Unified Government’s Economic Development and Finance Standing Committee about how well a food kitchen for the homeless and a community college parking lot would coexist on the same lot. But it was forwarded to the full council for approval.
“Forty-one years, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Steve Smith, St. Mary’s Food Kitchen Board Member, boasted of the non-profit’s track record of feeding the homeless and insecure.
Since 1997 they’ve been in the Wilhemina Gill Center, a building the organization says former U.S. Senator Bob Dole had built for them.
Monday, the food kitchen’s board went to the Economic Development and Finance Committee Meeting, where the Unified Government was set to sell at least part of the property where they are licensed to serve meals to Kansas City Kansas Community College for $10.
They said they weren’t notified and had no idea, based on the agenda, if their building, where they served 81,000 meals last year, was involved.
“It’s frustrating. We’re here to do something good for the community, and we are getting treated so badly,” Jacqueline Elbert told the committee.
“I think it’s totally ridiculous, that we’ve gotten this far in project and somebody that’s doing this kind of great work in our community has no idea what’s going on,” Unified Government Commissioner Chuck Stites responded.
Kansas City Kansas Community College has raised $46 million to build a new downtown campus with plans to open in the Fall of 2025.
It plans to turn the vacant lot next to the center that houses the food kitchen into a parking lot for students. Mosier says the college has no desire to disrupt the food kitchen’s services.
“Willa Gill will stay as it is for now until solutions are made available for maybe a full-service plan encompassing food services and housing are provided to the community,” Greg Mosier, KCKCC president, said.
The Unified Government says the mayor’s task force is working on a comprehensive homeless plan.
Commissioners asked that a provision be made before the Unified Government Full Commission votes on the sale that construction doesn’t block the center’s loading dock for daily food deliveries.