August 2, 2016

Kansas City: Stop 3 for the Millennial Trains Project

Kansas-City-Millennial-Trains-Project.jpg

First Things First – I’m in KCMO, Not KCK.

On May 6, Kansas City Mayor Sly James hosted a series of street parties along Main Street to celebrate the grand opening of the KC Streetcar. Check out Kemet the Phantom’s streetcar music video – seriously – which has dethroned DC Streetcar: How to Ride as my favorite streetcar video. The two mile route is the first step of a long-range plan to create a regional, integrated transit system, potentially expanding next through Midtown to connect to the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Volker campus.

Private Developers Receive Public Funds to Invest in the KC Streetcar Corridor

The City has been under scrutiny for providing luxury and market developers with tax incentives to encourage economic growth along the streetcar line. Since the KC Streetcar was approved in 2012, $1.7 billion have been invested within the Transportation Development District (TDD). Many residents feel that the investments do not meet the “but for” test – as in “but for this subsidy, these projects would not be financially feasible” – or meet a public need like providing affordable homes. Nearly half of renters in Kansas City spend too much for housing, and 500 low-income families living by the streetcar may be forced to leave their homes in the next five years as developers look to capitalize on expiring affordability covenants.

Will KCMO Support a Plan for eTOD?

The City Council is currently considering the Kansas City Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policy, which includes a recommendation to integrate affordable housing into projects along transit corridors and at existing and future transit stations. The TOD Policy will apply not only to the streetcar line, but also to other forms of public transit including bus rapid transit (BRT).

Join me as I explore Kansas City on August 3 by following @RachelReillyC and @MakeRoomUSA on Twitter and Instagram. I will be hopping on the KC Streetcar (it’s free!), touring the construction of Second and Delaware and visiting the Prospect Avenue Corridor.

Second and Delaware

Most Kansas City residents can’t afford to live in the luxury and market-rate apartments being developed in the TDD. One of the only places where new affordable homes are being developed along the KC Streetcar is at Second and Delaware, where 20 percent of the homes will be set aside as workforce housing. Arnold Development Group is planning for the long term, and wants to provide an affordable place to live for service industry professionals who will work in the new buildings being developed along the streetcar line.

Prospect Avenue Corridor

Kansas City just received a federal grant through the Small Starts program to expand its BRT system through Prospect Avenue, one of its busiest corridors. The Prospect MAX project will serve one of its most disadvantaged communities, where most residents earn less than $25,000 per year, and the unemployment rate is 22 percent. City planners are working with the National Resource Network and Smart Growth America to craft a plan that encourages equitable economic development that ensures rising land values and rents along the Prospect MAX corridor do not displace current residents. As an initial investment in Prospect Avenue, the City is redeveloping the Linwood Shopping Center to provide a new grocery store in what has long been a food desert.

Follow Along With Me

I am headed to Albuquerque next, so come back to Housing Horizons on August 4 to read about the Albuquerque Rapid Transit line which will break ground this month, and the affordable housing developments that will benefit from improved connectivity throughout the city.

You can also keep up with my trip on Instagram and Twitter at @RachelReillyC, @MakeRoomUSA and @MillenialTrain.