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18th & Vine Concept Called ‘Beale Street,’ Sparks Council Clash Fear of Gentrification

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Above image credit: The façade of the historic Eblon Theater at 1822 Vine St. would be saved and incorporated into a $23 million redevelopment plan submitted to City Hall. (Kevin Collison | Flatland)
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A $23 million mixed-use redevelopment proposal that would add apartments and retail space to the 18th and Vine District is being opposed by City Council members who fear it would turn the area into another “Beale Street.”

“On this first day of Black History, we are working to protect the historic 18th and Vine District from displacement that is all too often the result of gentrification,” Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson stated in a tweet last week.

“We will not be another Beale Street,” she added, referring to the popular entertainment district in the Black commercial area of downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Robinson, along with at large Third District Councilman Brandon Ellington, want the redevelopment proposal rejected. The project would be located in their district.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, along with at large Fifth District Councilman Lee Barnes, Jr., are supporting the proposal submitted by McCormack Baron Salazar and Taliaferro & Browne, longtime developers in the area, for the west side of Vine between 18th and 19th streets.

Proposed site plan submitted by a development group calling itself 18th & Vine Developers LLC.
Proposed site plan submitted by a development group calling itself 18th & Vine Developers LLC. (Map | Developer response to RFP)

They responded to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the city with a redevelopment concept that would save historic facades along the street including the Eblon Theater and Roberts Building.

Their proposal calls for building 33,000 square feet of first floor retail behind the old facades below two levels of residential space totaling 54 apartments. The project also includes 28 parking space.

There are no renderings available and the project is in the early stages of planning.

The developers said their $23 million redevelopment proposal has an $8 million funding gap.

Currently, the redevelopment site is mostly parking lots and derelict buildings. The facades of the old buildings were touched up as backdrops during the filming of the Robert Altman film “Kansas City” released in 1996.

Developer Tony Salazar said the proposed project would be similar to apartment projects his firm developed flanking the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum.

Lucas and Barnes could not be reached for comment.

McCormack Baron Salazar apartments in the 18th and Vine District.
McCormack Baron Salazar have developed similar scale apartment projects in the 18th and Vine District. (Photo | McCormack Baron Facebook page)

Robinson and Ellington have submitted an ordinance to the council demanding the city reject the current proposal and issue a new RFP.

Neither council member could be reached directly for comment. But Robinson posted a series of tweets last week accusing the developers of trying to “gentrify” the area.

Robinson expressed her displeasure at what she said was the failure by city staff to formally publicize terms of the agreement. It calls for the city to sell the redevelopment site to the developers for $1.

“The disrespect is real — in no other district would they ‘forget’ to upload the development agreement for a sale of city property,” Robinson stated.

In another tweet, the councilwoman staked out their position.

Aerial view of the block between 18th and 19th streets from Vine to The Paseo.
The city request for proposals covered most of the block between 18th and 19th streets from Vine to The Paseo. (Map | RFP)

“Right now, your two Third District Council members are on record that the 18th and Vine Agreement doesn’t go far enough in protecting against displacement,” she stated. “What we do today will impact us for generations to come.”

Leonard Graham, president of Taliaferro & Browne, said he has met with Robinson since she registered her opposition on social media last week.

“There’s been a number of misunderstandings with regards to the project,” he said. “Quite frankly, I hope some of as that’s been worked out, at least with Ms. Robinson.

“Anytime a project is proposed for an area and properties as important to the African American community as 18th and Vine there sometimes are misunderstandings about the scope and that creates confusion.”

Graham said if the full City Council approves his group’s proposal for 18th and Vine, it would likely be at least nine-to 10 months before any construction activity would begin.

Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is the founder of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.

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One thought on “18th & Vine Concept Called ‘Beale Street,’ Sparks Council Clash

  1. Not another Beale Street?? There have been other Kansas City firms trying to reach this benchmark for several years: a vibrant, populated, and safe area creating not just entertainment but an influx of commerce and economic stability – a true community – all while preserving the historical importance of a landmark of national musical heritage that remains to this day. The Beale Street model is EXACTLY what Kansas City should be pursuing for the Jazz District- and not some misunderstood opposition to the very strategy that will save it from further decay and blight. Unless, of course, under the table politics (and most likely slush-fund cash benefits) for the very politicos screaming opposition would be disrupted.

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