Thursday, October 9, 2014

Plans for ‘healthy campus’ in KCK expected to move forward

By Mike Sherry
Kansas Health Institute

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Unified Government Mayor/CEO Mark Holland on Thursday evening unveiled an initiative to ensure that all residents can use a proposed new community center regardless of their financial circumstances.

Holland announced the initiative as part of a community forum at City Hall for the “healthy campus” proposed for an urban site just west of downtown Kansas City, Kan.

A proposal championed by Holland, the healthy campus would be a mixed-use development that would revolve around Big Eleven Lake, which is bounded by 10th and 11th streets between State Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

Holland unveiled the healthy campus idea in his State of the Government address earlier this year.

At the forum, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., also expects to unveil a master plan for the development.

As part of the implementation process, the Unified Government is considering adopting a formal Downtown Central Parkway Implementation Plan, which government officials expect will be drafted by Oct. 28.

Under the timeline for enactment, the planning commission would hold a public hearing on the plan Nov. 10, followed by a hearing by the board of commissioners on Dec. 4.

In an interview Thursday, Holland said he expects to announce the establishment of a technical team that will develop a community center access plan. He said the team would include representatives from the Unified Government, along with school officials and appointees from the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.

In meetings with neighborhood groups and other interested parties, Holland said, access to the community center has been the No. 1 concern that has emerged.

“Access to healthy living should not be something that is income-driven,” he said. “It should be something that is available to everyone.”

Holland has discussed the idea of operating the community center in partnership with the YMCA. He expressed confidence that the team would devise a solution, given the Y’s experience in serving diverse communities across the country.

In addition to access to exercise facilities, Holland said he wanted the community center to host classes for the community on topics like healthy cooking.

Thursday’s event is a follow-up to a community forum the Unified Government hosted in the spring, when some participants expressed doubts that the project would happen in a part of town where residents have felt let down by City Hall in the past. That forum drew about 270 participants.

Holland said the skepticism was warranted given the dearth of economic development downtown for several years.

“Empty promises don’t pay the bills,” he said.

His vision for the campus, he said, is to make it the biggest thing to happen in downtown for generations.

The vision includes construction of a grocery store along with the community center. Those two projects alone, Holland has said, would represent a roughly $30 million investment in that part of town.

Elected officials from the Unified Government have committed $6 million in casino proceeds to the community center.

The Wyandotte Health Foundation also has pledged $1 million to the healthy campus.