The Urban Neighborhood Initiative

The mission of UNI is to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by helping to build healthy neighborhoods that enable all children and families to succeed and thrive.

UNI, led by Executive Director Dianne Cleaver, partners with leaders and residents within and beyond the 10 neighborhoods it serves. Started as a Big 5 idea, UNI is now an independent 501(c)3, with its own Board of Directors and staff, bringing innovative solutions to the challenges faced in the urban core.

Working together, UNI and its partners are changing neighborhoods plagued by crime, unemployment, poverty, vacant housing, and lack of economic development. These three key projects are making a difference. 

Wendell Phillips Neighborhood Initiative

Following the successful formula of Atlanta’s Purpose Built Communities, UNI first opened a new, high-quality charter school in the Wendell Phillips Neighborhood, the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, and has acquired land adjacent to the school for development of mixed-income housing.

From Vacant to Vibrant (V2V)

A big problem for UNI neighborhoods: 3,900 vacant houses and vacant lots, leading to blight and crime. Since 2015, a coalition of community leaders and key organizations have been attacking the problem – working to clear titles (not an easy job), simplifying the processes involved in, for example, how to acquire Land Bank property, integrating green space, and marketing vacant properties  

Kansas City Catalytic Urban Redevelopment (KC-CUR) Initiative

The goal of KC-CUR is large-scale, transformational economic redevelopment in four focus areas: 31st & Prospect; 31st & Troost; the Ivanhoe Neighborhood’s 39th Street Corridor, and UNI’s Wendell Phillips Neighborhood Initiative area. KC-CUR is a partnership between UNI, the Mid-America Regional Council, the Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the City of Kansas City, Missouri.  

Champion, Mark Larrabee, Chair, UNI Board of Directors

The Champion of this Big 5 initiative is the head of the Urban Neighborhood’s Board of Directors, overseeing UNI activities and resources.

Mark Larrabee is President & CEO of Arvest Bank, a community bank with 17 branch locations in Greater Kansas City. In addition to chairing the UNI Board, Mark is a member of the KC Chamber’s Board of Directors. He has also served in board leadership positions with Boys & Girls Clubs, the University of Kansas Medical Center Advancement Board, Metropolitan Community College Foundation, and Midwest Women’s Business Enterprise Council.

young working with teacher
student with backpack overlooking graffiti in alley
men standing in front of Nutter Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center
urban neighborhood street
couple sitting on park bench looking at river
man working in neighborhood community garden