With much fanfare, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, has started demolition on an old grocery story on Linwood and Prospect to build a new one on the same site.
“It’s the beginning of a new day,” said Councilman Jermaine Reed, who represents the district. The revival of this small shopping center comes with a $17 million price tag in public funds, money that the City is putting up.
This is not the norm for the City to take the lead, but some may remember what happened the last time public funds were used to launch a brand new day at the very same site thirty or so years go.
At the time, city leaders turned to the one developer in the metro with a proven track record in launching hopeless shopping centers, the Community Development Corporation of Kansas City.
Created in 1969 as part of a nationwide effort to redevelop inner cities, the CDC-KC leveled the city on the taxpayer dime for decades to come. To be fair, Kansas City’s has not been a uniquely troubled CDC. Indeed, in the world of community organizing, it is seen as something of a success. If nothing else, it sustained itself for 40-some years.
In 1986, the CDC-KC developed the original Linwood Square Shopping Center with financial help from the city and such unlikely—and unthinking—suspects as the federal departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services. Today, after 30 proud years of blowing off creditors, failing to pay bank loans, and wasting taxpayer dollars, the old grocery built with public funds is yielding to a new grocery built with public funds.
Councilman Reed predicted the new grocery will “continue to be a catalyst for the community.” One suspects that the City Council wished for the very same things thirty years ago. As is true everywhere, OPM (other people’s money) makes for a lot of wishful thinking.