Revitalizing Our Urban Neighborhoods through the Urban Neighborhood Initiative
Champion: Terry Bassham, KCP&L and Great Plains Energy
By focusing on existing assets and growing jobs, and improving health and safety, and education, the Urban Neighborhood Initiative can deliver real opportunity and development for local neighborhoods, while creating a model that can be replicated in communities within the region and beyond.
October 1, 2014 UPDATE
Urban Neighborhood Initiative Increases Job Opportunities in Urban Core
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), in conjunction with the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri, Urban League, and KC Chamber, is hosting a hiring fair for UNI residents on October 7, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
This event aims to offer urban core residents on the spot opportunities to talk directly with employers who are hiring. Many applicants who will participate have had job readiness training that enables them to better present their skill set and succeed in the workplace. Attendees are encouraged to bring copies of their resume, dress to impress, and be prepared for on-site interviews. Read More >>
September 4, 2014 update
Urban Neighborhood Initiative Takes Two Big Steps in Education
Thanks to a grant from engineering company Burns & McDonnell, residents in the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) target area now have two new and important resources available to them – the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and a new Success By 6 Center at Faxon Elementary School.
UNI – one of the KC Chamber’s “Big 5” goals – serves all or part of nine center city neighborhoods, from 22nd to 52nd Streets, Troost to 71 Highway. Improving educational opportunities in that area is a key focus. Read More >>
August 21, 2014 update
KCPS and UNI Exploring New Charter School
The KC Chamber’s Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) last week took its first public step in the journey to revitalize the central city – one neighborhood at a time.
Last Wednesday, UNI Executive Director Dianne Cleaver briefed the board of Kansas City Public Schools on plans to create a new charter school in a neighborhood in the urban core. It would be a partnership with the school district, but with an independent board responsible for setting standards and hiring faculty.
The creation of a new, academically-rigorous charter school is one of the keystones of a neighborhood development strategy called Purpose Built Communities (PBC). It’s a three-part strategy, with a focus on new mixed-income housing, quality education, and health and wellness services.
Following the suggestion of one of its neighborhood residents, UNI began working with consultants from PBC more than a year ago, led by UNI board member Terry Bassham (KCPL). KCPS Superintendent Dr. Steve Green told school board members the idea for the charter school partnership with UNI was in its “nascent stage,” and that his goal was to bring the concept to the board as exploration of the idea continues.
PBC President Greg Giornelli said the possibilities for the UNI project were “as exciting as they come.” PBC’s strategies grew out of the successful redevelopment of Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood.
Starting in the 1990’s, PBC transformed a desolate, poverty-ridden urban neighborhood to one boasting a high-performing school, YMCA, mixed-income housing, and a strong sense of community. Employment of low-income adults increased from 13.5 to 70 percent; violent crime decreased by 90 percent; and 99 percent of the charter school students now meet or exceed state reading requirements.
Cleaver also told the board that UNI had identified three possible locations for the new school and mixed-housing, but was not yet ready to release that information.
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative is one of the KC Chamber’s “Big 5” goals for Kansas City, and works in partnership with the nine neighborhoods within its target area, which runs from Troost to 71 Highway, 22nd to 52nd Streets.
May 15, 2014 UPDATE
Bringing Books to Kids
Community members will be building “Little Free Libraries” this Saturday and, in a few weeks, will begin installing them in the neighborhoods that are part of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI).
Little Free Library is a worldwide movement that promotes literacy and community. Each library is a box full of books where anyone in the neighborhood can stop by and pick up a book (or two) and/or bring back another book to share. The UNI has partnered with HNTB as the program’s presenting sponsor and the Kansas City Public Schools as its book partner to help with the initial effort.
A Little Free Library “build session” will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. till 12 noon and from 1:00-4:00 at Hammerspace, 440 East 63rd Street, Kansas City, MO.
“Improving educational outcomes in our urban neighborhoods is one of the key goals of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative,” says Dianne Cleaver, UNI Executive Director. “We recognize that good reading skills are essential for children’s development and future success. These Little Free Libraries will help area children engage in reading activities during the summer months to avoid the ‘summer slide’. They will also help promote a culture of reading that continues throughout the school year.”
“We’re here because as architects and engineers we recognize the value of education. We love to read and want to share that love with the kids in the UNI neighborhoods,” says Chris Migneron, Associate Vice President & Architecture Office Leader at HNTB, the sponsor of Saturday’s effort. “It’s in line with HNTB’s values, and also a way to support the community and the KC Chamber’s UNI initiative.”
For more information on the global Little Free Library movement, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.
October 8, 2013 update
Revitalizing the urban core one neighborhood at a time is the long-term goal of this Big 5 initiative. The first target area is bounded on the east and west by Troost and 71 Highway, north and south from 22nd through 52nd Streets. An action agenda focusing on the issues of health and safety, education, and prosperity has been developed in concert with the neighborhood and community based organizations within the target area. In addition, a nonprofit corporation, The Urban Neighborhood Initiative, Inc. (UNI) has been created to oversee and operate the initiative on an ongoing basis.
October 8, 2013 update
Urban Neighborhood Initiative Gets Boost from Connecting For Good
Efforts to bridge the digital divide are underway in Kansas City’s urban core. The Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), thanks to partnerships with Arvest Bank-Kansas City, and Connecting for Good, Inc., will be part of an engineering study to establish the feasibility and budget for creating a wireless network to provide high-speed internet connectivity to the area.
The engineering and feasibility study by Connecting for Good is made possible through a $5,000 donation by Arvest Bank. Read More >>
September 11, 2013 update
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), in conjunction with the Green Impact Zone, Urban League, and KC Chamber, is hosting a hiring fair for UNI residents on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
This event aims to offer urban core residents on the spot opportunities to talk directly with employers who are hiring. Many applicants who will participate have had job readiness training that enables them to better present their skill set and succeed in the workplace.
UNI is one of the KC Chamber’s Big 5 Ideas with a goal of revitalizing neighborhoods in the urban core. One of UNI’s three areas of focus is prosperity, and key to prosperity is quality employment for UNI residents. With a focus on that goal, UNI is partnering with two organizations with a rich history of promoting employment in the urban core: The Green Impact Zone and the Urban League. Both of these organizations have a history of providing job readiness training as well as gathering information on the specific skills and qualifications participating companies are seeking and then inviting applicants that meet those qualifications to the hiring fair.
“Joint efforts of this kind help us progress toward our ultimate goal of partnering with neighborhoods to revitalize the urban core. Connecting employers with residents is a key step in helping applicants to access opportunities and ultimately better jobs. The support from businesses and engagement with neighborhoods helps form the kinds of partnership crucial to making prosperity a reality,” said Dianne Cleaver, executive director of UNI.
Employers scheduled to attend and offer jobs include:
Westin/Sheraton Crown Center
Country Club Bank
Saint Luke’s Health System
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
Kansas City Southern
Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative is focused on the area between Troost and 71 Highway, 22nd Street to 52nd Street.
June 25, 2013 update
Rockhurst University's Prosperity Center for Financial Opportunity opens at 5151 Troost Avenue.
March 29, 2013 update
Revitalizing the urban core one neighborhood at a time is the long-term goal of this Big 5 initiative. The first target area is bounded on the east and west by Troost Avenue and 71 Highway, from 26th through 55th Streets. An action agenda focusing on the issues of health and safety, education, and prosperity has been developed in concert with the neighborhood organizations, residents, and business owners within the target area. In addition, a nonprofit corporation, The Urban Neighborhood Initiative, Inc. (UNI) has been created to oversee and operate the initiative on a continuing basis.
March 5, 2013 update
HOSPITAL HILL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION GROCERY STORE PROJECT MOVES INTO DEVELOPMENT PHASE
The Hospital Hill Economic Development Corporation (HHEDC) and Truman Medical Centers (TMC) finalized the transfer of land from the City of Kansas City and the receivership of the Housing and Economic Development Financial Corporation (HEDFC) to complete the acquisition phase of the grocery store project.
“This is a significant milestone in our grocery store effort, not only will the store further the cause of healthy food in the urban core, but also the continued development of the Beacon Hill area” said HHEDC Chairman and TMC Lakewood Chief Operating Officer Charlie Shields. “Our partners in this phase of the project have been invaluable and we would like to thank TMC, the City of Kansas City, the HEDFC, Zimmer Real Estate and the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority for helping to move this project forward.” Read More >>
February 5, 2013 update
December 4, 2012 update
URBAN NEIGHBORHOOD INITIATIVE ANNOUNCES DIANNE CLEAVER AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Today, the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) Board of Trustees announced that community leader Dianne Cleaver has been selected as the first Executive Director of the organization.
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative is part of the “Big 5” identified last year by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Now a non-profit, the focus of the UNI is on improving opportunities for residents in an east-side area between Troost Avenue and 71 Highway from 22nd Street to 52nd Street.
“I could not be more excited to begin implementation of the plans laid forth in the Urban Neighborhood Initiative Action Agenda,” Cleaver said. “Through the establishment of the UNI, Terry Dunn with JE Dunn, Brent Stewart with the United Way of Greater Kansas City, and everyone with The Chamber have created a foundation that allows for sustained impact and change in a part of our city that needs it most. For the first time, the UNI brings together business, community and individuals under a common goal. It’s the combination of sound direction and unified support that will make us successful.”
Last month, representatives from the UNI board of directors unveiled the UNI Action Agenda. The Agenda, which is the culmination of more than 12 months of community work, includes an emphasis on prosperity, health and safety.
“The organization could not be in a better position to effect long-term change and positive impact in this community,” said Terry Dunn, co-chair of the UNI board. “Under Dianne’s leadership I’m confident the UNI will become a model of success for our community as well as others around the country.”
October 4, 2012 update
BIG 5 URBAN NEIGHBORHOOD INITIATIVE UNVEILS ACTION AGENDA FOR TROOST CORRIDOR
Prosperity, health and safety, and education are the three areas of emphasis included in the Action Agenda plan unveiled today to an Urban Neighborhood Initiative symposium attended by approximately 250 community leaders, neighborhood advocates, and business representatives at the Federal Reserve Bank.
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) is one of the Big 5 initiatives identified last year by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and is focused on improving the opportunities for residents in an east side area between Troost Avenue and 71 Highway from 22nd Street to 52nd Street.
“This is an important next step in a very thoughtful and deliberate process,” says Terry Dunn, chairman and CEO of JE Dunn Construction and co-champion of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative. “The action agenda will be finalized in the next few months, with implementation in the target area set to begin Jan. 1, 2013.”
Brent Stewart, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Kansas City and UNI co-champion, says, “Our discussions with the neighborhood residents and community leaders identified the direction that is key to the success of this initiative. Connecting people and business, both within the neighborhoods of our target area as well as throughout the region, is essential.”
Development of the action agenda followed a year-long process of research and planning, spearheaded by United Way of Greater Kansas City. The planning process included 16 community meetings attended by more than 700 residents of UNI’s target area who provided input into what their neighborhoods needed to improve and thrive. Representatives from the neighborhoods, as well as business, civic and human services entities, worked together to develop the Action Agenda, and attendees at the symposium were invited to provide feedback and additional ideas, as well as suggestions for implementation.
Strategies in the Action Agenda plan include:
Prosperity – increasing economic opportunity, decreasing social disparities and establishing more quality housing within the target area.
Health and Safety – supporting the development of clean and safe neighborhoods, and improving community health.
Education – improving the quality of education opportunities from birth through career.
UNI has now been established as its own not-for-profit entity, and an executive director for the new organization will be announced in the near future.
Chamber Chair Frank Ellis, chairman and CEO of Swope Community Enterprises, says he’s pleased with UNI’s steady progress since the Big 5 were launched just over a year ago. “A strong foundation has been built,” Ellis says, “both in terms of a solid structure to oversee and guide the initiative, as well as a thorough and deliberate process of engagement and collaboration with neighborhood leaders and residents.”
Keynote speaker for the symposium was Brian Smedley, director of the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. Smedley’s remarks focused on the challenges presented by racial and ethnic disparities and the need for “place-based” opportunities. Stewart said UNI’s action agenda directly addresses those essential concepts.
September 13, 2012 update
Revitalizing the urban core one neighborhood at a time is the goal of this Big 5 initiative. The plan is to select an area east of Troost, working with the neighborhood and bringing appropriate resources to bear. United Way is partnering with The Chamber in this effort.
Progress to date:
An action agenda for the Troost Corridor – UNI’s first target area – is currently being developed in collaboration with neighborhood leaders, residents, youth, and businesses.
Numerous stakeholder meetings have been held to discuss corridor needs, strengths, and opportunities.
First draft of the action plan will be submitted to the community at a work session and meeting scheduled for October 4.
The selection of the Troost Corridor as the first target area was announced earlier this year. Boundaries are: Troost on the west and Highway 71 on the east, from 22nd Street to 52nd Street.
A nonprofit corporation, The Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), has been created to oversee and operate the initiative on a continuing basis. o UNI is incorporated in the state of Missouri and has been recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization and as a public charity.
Founding members of the UNI Board of Directors include community, business, civic, philanthropic, and education leaders.
The Urban Neighborhood Initiative: A Plan for Connecting People and Building Community – October 4 from 7:30 a.m. to noon at the Federal Reserve Bank, 1 Memorial Drive, KCMO.
Keynote speaker: Brian Smedley, Ph.D.; vice president and director, Health Policy Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Draft action agenda for the Troost Corridor to be released.
Breakout sessions with community stakeholders to discuss and refined draft agenda.
November 2012 – action agenda finalized and shared.
January 2013 – begin implementation.
June 27, 2012 update
Today the UNI is celebrating two newly planted community orchards. These community orchards were planted by volunteers with SkillsUSA community youth services project. The orchards have been planted in two locations: Spring Valley Park overlooking Troost Lake, and Center City Neighborhood at 33rd Street and Forest. Together the orchards consist of more than 200 fruit trees and be maintained by Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries and the St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church respectively. The trees were donated by Timberland PRO Company. A Health Fair and Family Fun Night that had been scheduled for June 27 at Troost Lake is being rescheduled due to the heat.
June 11, 2012 update
Meetings are underway with stakeholders in the Troost Corridor target area as the neighborhoods and UNI leadership work to develop a plan.
Expect a draft strategic plan in September. After public comment, the final action plan to revitalize the Troost Corridor will be unveiled in November.