Cleaver urges giving 18th and Vine the glory it deserves

cleaver-3A joint city council committee on Wednesday advanced a proposal that would be a first step toward $18 million in improvements at the 18th and Vine Jazz District.

The full city council is expected to vote today on the resolution that directs the city manager to find ways – public and private – to pay for it.

The improvements are needed to return the historic area to the glory it deserves, supporters say.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver testified that it is one of the most famous streets in the world, along with Broadway and Hollywood Boulevard.

“This is a place that most cities would love to have,” he said, “part of the oomph in Kansas City.”

Others, like finance committee chair Scott Wagner, question how city money would be used and if it would be enough.

“My concern is we are giving the impression the city is going to do everything,” he said. “What are others bringing to the table.”

Past development efforts there have also suffered because of an array of different groups involved, he said.

Cleaver said he agreed that one entity should be in charge of development in the area, and said he would also advocate for federal money for improvements.

Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said historic buildings there have declined so much that a  study should be done on which can be preserved.

The city manager is to report financing options to the council within 60 days. The finance director said money for the improvements could be part of a planned $140 million bond issue in the spring.

Among the proposed improvements:

Replace dangerous buildings on Vine Street, a new western entrance plaza and fountain, a new headquarters and arts space for the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Alley, preserve the Boone Theater façade, upgrade and add a café to the American Jazz Museum, complete the Buck O’Neil Center, new buildings and parking on the corner of 18th and Vine and a new surface parking lot west of the Paseo.

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