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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kansas City Citadel Project

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.
Midtown Miscreant
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.


May said...

"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."

EXACTLY how I feel about this too! It drives me mad that instead of solving problems, the "solution" these people want to go with is running away from problems! Such a bad idea for dealing with anything, much less the freaking economic development of a city! ARGH!

Thanks for being a voice of reason!

Rev. Rob Allen said...

When i was an organizer, i talked with many people of the community surrounding the proposed Citidel development. The folks in that area NEED those stores and had felt like they were constantly being lied to about when it was going to even get started. When i saw the paper this morning and saw that city council was to vote on it (again) I though "what? I thought that was approved last year?" apparently not! time to get it done!

Sandy Price said...

i am just a white woman who moved to the KC area about five years ago, actually back into the white neighborhood where i grew up to be near my parents, but who attends school along troost. i have never experienced such an odd set of unsubstantiated fears. when my family and JoCo friends found out that i met with school friends at a coffee shop along troost, that i frequented the taco bell - in broad daylight -in the line of sight of paseo high school (where, by the way, my mother attended high school in the 40s), that i met for dinner at the el salvadorian restaurant on truman road, or that i drove THRU minority neighborhoods instead of AROUND them, they were apoplectic. is this every city, or just kansas city? is this why the 18th & vine area restaurants have such a hard time? what are the solutions? how can we bring people together?

Midtown Miscreant said...

So any white person with an opinion or concern should be discounted as a fear addled suburbanite? Since I authored the post you referenced I assume that is directed toward me, at least in part. I moved to midtown in the mid 1970's the first time. Ive been coming and going ever since. I just moved from midtown after 7 years. Im neither upper middle class or from the burbs. I also never claimed to be an authority, but I can discuss crime frome both sides of the fence better than most , having lived on both sides of that fence. You are so quick to jump on the "white privledge/guilt" band wagon that you automatically write off a differing view as "white fright" and ignorance of "poor folk". Claiming that the east side is as safe as anywhere else is either naive or ignorant, possibly both. I write about this city and the problems because it matters to me. Ive spent 49 years in kansas city, Id venture to say that gives my opinion as much weight as any.
The fact remains, people with disposable funds wont come to an area that they dont feel safe in. Doesnt matter how baseless you think that fear is, or how much you pshaw at crime stats.

nuge said...

Can we at least agree that the timing of a new retail development, ANYWHERE, stinks? If Merriam has a totally empty shopping center and PV just has a huge empty lot where an empty shopping center used to be, what are the chances that Citadel would work? I'm not trying to go into the "not now, wait a few years" rope-a-dope that KCMO likes to play with the East Side. It's just that opening a retail development in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 75 years - especially when the best-case anchor tenant (IKEA) is largely dependent on local disposable income - sounds like a very, very bad idea, no matter how you slice and dice the drilldown demographics.

Do you see me? said...

nuge - a different issue, but I agree. The problem, however, is that the Citadel project is an eyesore right now. So there needs to at least be an interim plan to green the space.

Sara said...

When I moved into our beautiful, old house at 39th & Paseo with my new husband, my father told my mother she wasn't allowed visit me because she would get shot. For the first six months of my son's life, he only saw his grandmother when we visited her in the suburbs. Then we bought an awesome house on Meyer - just across from Research - and have called it home ever since. We love our neighbors, the lack of crime, and the acceptance my little ethnically-mixed family has received from all sides. What we don't like is the asbestos-filled mess across the damned street. So coming from an employed white person with a little bit of discretionary income and a kid in elementary school - please, for God's sake, will someone clean this crap up? I don't care if it's an IKEA, adult book store, church or otherwise, but I don't want my son to get sick because he played in the wrong patch of dirt. And I'm also tired of the idiot stereotypes about the people who live in my neighborhood. My husband and I are 29-year-old parents, professionals, and we have a great relationship with the other members of our community. I wish white suburbia would get over their pointless fears of things they're unwilling to understand.
(also, my apologies for blogging on your blog - I'm happy to have found you) :)