UPDATE: Here is a link to a second post by Midtown Miscreant and the comments. Apparently they are very threatened by my comments and took it personal by trashing me as well as message. An old strategy - if you can't win on the message, shoot the messenger. I stand by my opinions and comments.
The Kansas City blog-world is buzzing about today's City Council consideration of funding for the Citadel Plaza retail development project. I don't know what the current plans look like, but I saw an iteration a year ago. It had failure written all over it. I know a thing or two about urban commercial development and know that if you don't build it for the right retail mix and pre-lease, no one will come and you will have a vacant bombshell on your hands.
The Citadel project is at 63rd and Prospect next to a busy highway where people would have to exit to shop, then get back on the highway. It is near a large hospital and medical center. It also is technically on the poor and minority side of town (though within a mile of affluent whites). Many ill-informed people think that Troost is still the official racial dividing line. It is more likely Paseo and perhaps, US 71/Watkins Highway. I put together this short demo to talk about retail trade strategy and a trade analysis of the area (which I am sure is having no bearing on the public sector decision making).
What really fries me is that commenters on the blogs are very self assured that this is a bad development deal because:
1. who in their right mind would shop in this neighborhood because it is has poor people and crime
2. why would white people shop in a black neighborhood?
Check out this post and comment thread (I have a couple of comments posted) at Midtown Miscreant who, for some reason, is seen as some kind of authority on this subject.
The ever popular TKC also has been running some great investigative posts on this subject, but this one brings out the best in the commenters.
Tony's Kansas City
Everyone who weighs in on this issue is very sure that this project will fail for reasons 1 and 2 above. No one is talking about any Economic Development analysis or retail strategy - which is of course what you need to be considering.
I am so tired of white people and middle class people making their pronouncements about poor people and minority neighborhoods. Most of them are so scared of these areas, they never go there. So their pronouncements are nothing more than their own fears as fact. Having lived much farther east in KC than this particular location, I feel I can say with some assurity - they are all full of crap. Yes, there is crime. Yes, there is poverty. Is the area as safe as the most affluent neighorhoods? Yes and probably safer. Crime in these neighborhoods is not random burglaries but often violence directed at specific people and activities. Read my most recent posts. DeShawn didn't get killed on the street. He got killed in a basement, where, if he had walked away from the situation, would not have died there.
People who don't live in these neighborhoods assume that they would be shot on sight, carjacked, and mugged if caught on the street. Anything is possible, but is it highly unlikely. You are as likely to be carjacked at the Oaks mall or have your purse snatched as you are on the eastside of KC. You are as likely to see a gun chase down Brookside Blvd. as you are down Prospect (and yes, both have happened in the last 2 years). It is these engrained perceptions and assumptions of truth that stymie investment in the urban core in KC, in Camden, and most other places. Bankers, commercial brokers, and others who "know" by looking at the same stats they look at for the suburbs, make decisions every day that reinforce their ignorance at the expense of the people who are trying to live in these neighborhoods.
I suggested on MM's blog post that if an IKEA were put in at the Citadel, it would be a rousing success, because despite what everyone "knows" about the area, the draw of an IKEA would outweigh their fears. Comments after mine amply demonstrate that. So if you want to ensure success for your shopping center, maybe Sweedish furniture is the way to go.