The first city Ideas Fair showcases innovators

There are up to 7,000 vacant homes in the city, and too few people have jobs – just two of many problems the city cannot solve alone.

Midtown’s Hope Center, a partnership of businesses and Christ Community Church, renovated a home for sale and plans to do many more.

Maker Village KC plans to buy and rehab a historic building for a member-based workshop that gives access to craftsman equipment and to training.

Dozens of such innovators displayed Saturday at the city’s first Ideas Fair at the downtown library.

It was itself an idea presented through Mayor Sly James, Chief Innovation Officer Ashley Hand and the Mayor’s Challenge Cabinet.

James said innovations and public-private partnerships play a  role as the city races away from years of inaction and low confidence.

The goal is to have three times as many at the next ideas fair, he said, not just to help make Kansas City better but to make it the best.

“Let’s explore the limits of our potential in every way,” he said.

The city has passed a dark period when people were not proud of it and felt nothing could be done, he said.

New confidence follows accomplishments like the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the All-Star game, the downtown streetcar line and more, he said.

James said the federal director of transportation summed it up when he awarded the city a $20 million grant, the largest of its kind in the nation, toward the construction of its streetcar line.

The director said we got it “because we had our act together,” James said.

The city, guided by citizen commissions, is also moving toward historic choices like deciding if it should replace its aging airport or end its status as the only city with its police department under state control, he said.

And Kansas City is making its vast store of data more easily available so people can see what the city does and work with it on projects, he said.

“Open data is simply a way to say, come into our house, walk around, tell us what you’re doing,” he said.

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