WRITTEN BY: John Baccala
It began as what City Manager Troy Schulte called a “hair-brained idea we cooked up one afternoon.” Two years later, that hair-brained idea has taken a bite out of blight across Kansas City and led to the elimination of nearly 900 homes and commercial structures from the city’s dangerous buildings list.
Mayor Sly James, Schulte and other city and neighborhood leaders recently gathered outside a refurbished east side home to celebrate the success of the city’s two-year, $10 million demolition initiative. In 2016, the City began an ambitious program to either rehabilitate or demolish a backlog of buildings. Bringing even some of these dilapidated, distressed properties back to life was well worth the effort, Mayor James said.
Smiling throughout the mayor’s remarks was Laurie Schwab. Her once-blighted KCMO Land Bank home, now beautifully rehabbed, was the backdrop for the occasion. Schwab bought the home during the Land Bank’s $1 home sale and transformed it into the showpiece of the South Blue Valley Neighborhood. It was one of many strategies the city manager and the city’s Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department (NHSD) used to address the dangerous buildings issue.
“Troy Schulte deserves a ton of credit for his thinking, his processes and the way he attacks these kinds of issues,” James said. However, Schulte was even quicker to credit NHSD and dangerous buildings staff for their hard work.
“They are changing the face of this City,” Schulte said, “and making neighborhoods worthy of reinvestment. We’re saving neighborhoods and bringing people back to the urban core of the City.”
When the program began in June 2016, nearly 820 buildings and homes were on the list, but the number swelled to 895 because of emergency demolitions due to fires and collapses. Teardowns typically cost between $8,000 and $10,000 per structure, but firms like Kissick Construction and Industrial Salvage & Wrecking generously demolished more than 60 buildings free of charge.
Unfortunately, the dangerous buildings issue never completely goes away. By late summer 2018, the new list totaled nearly 400. Still, Schulte vows to continue the city’s ‘fight on blight,’ but for just a fleeting moment, he wanted to enjoy the accomplishment and the difference it has made in Kansas City.
“This is a great day,” Schulte exclaimed.