Authors: josh KAREN DILLON
Crossposted from kansascity.com The Kansas City StarWithin a couple of years, Kansas City could become a green model for turning around some of its poorest neighborhoods, officials said Thursday. Up to $200 million in federal stimulus money will weatherize every home that needs it in a 150-block area, upgrade bus services and provide much more help, they said. “I’m so excited, I’m trying to calm down,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat who came up with the idea for a Green Impact Zone. “This is a perfect storm of opportunity.”Kansas City is taking the lead in the nation by funneling as much stimulus money as possible over two years into rebuilding one area of the city, Cleaver said. Local, state and federal governments have agreed to work together on the plan.
“The key is we are investing federal money wisely and building an inclusive green economy strong enough to create jobs for residents,” said Cleaver, who met with more than 50 neighborhood and community leaders Thursday. The money should translate into massive assistance for the Ivanhoe, Manheim, 49/63, Blue Hills and Town Fork Creek neighborhoods. The Green Impact Zone is bordered on the west by Troost Avenue, on the north by 39th Street, on the south by 51st Street and on the east by Prospect Avenue and Swope Parkway. Bruce R. Watkins Drive cuts a swath through the zone’s center. One of the main goals is to weatherize every home that needs it. That includes replacing windows and furnaces with energy-efficient ones and making other improvements that will reduce energy bills for residents. “It’s not uncommon for some people to have $600 and $800 gas bills a month in the winter,” said Margaret May, executive director of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council. “Some don’t have incomes that are much more than that. There are so many needs here, and we need to make sure we are spending this money in a manner that really benefits this area.” In addition, plans to improve the zone include: •Training the jobless to do weatherizing work, and possibly other work, in the zone. •Developing a sustainable land-use plan for the area. •Locating a green sewer demonstration project. •Developing a smart grid energy project, which would, for example, include state-of-the-art wiring for electric cars and computers that control household appliances. •Increasing bus services and purchasing 15 buses. •Replacing the current bridge at Troost and Volker to accommodate the improved Troost Corridor rapid-transit bus route. •Building 25 new bus stations, which would be built to green standards and include a “real-time passenger information system.” May said neighborhood groups, community leaders, elected officials, Cleaver and his staff, and a host of others have had several meetings to hash out how to move forward with a plan that has so many components. Cleaver said he took his idea for focusing stimulus money on one zone to the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and other leaders, who agreed to funnel much of the money coming to Kansas City toward the Green Impact Zone. “Emanuel Cleaver’s innovative idea shows that we can build a clean energy economy block by block,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “Our nation’s cities are laboratories for energy solutions.” Last week the Kansas City Council threw its support behind the initiative, unanimously approving a resolution to support the zone and partner with MARC to coordinate funding and work. Another partner will be Kansas City Power & Light. Officials have plans to develop the smart grid and will explore alternative energy options for businesses and institutions. The University of Missouri-Kansas City is providing demographic data to the city about the neighborhoods. The Green Impact Zone of Missouri, the full name of the area, has some of the highest unemployment rates in Kansas City — up to 55 percent in some areas. Up to a third of residents in some neighborhoods are without cars, and the entire area has the lowest median household income in the city — $22,397 annually. Already $42 million in stimulus money has been identified to begin improvements, and that investment will help attract more money, Cleaver said. “Doing a project that coordinates the stimulus dollars and targets them is a very wise decision,” said Councilwoman Cindy Circo, who has helped push the city’s environmental initiatives. The stimulus funding will be coming through multiple agencies and will require a watchdog effort, officials said. “This will require coordination not only at the program level but also really intense coordination at the neighborhood, and really, at the (individual) house level,” said Dean Katerndahl with MARC. “To do that, the neighborhood groups are going to have to be at the forefront.”