18th and Vine receives multi-million dollar renovation plan

Kansas City local government looks to revitalize the iconic jazz neighborhood and expand entertainment district


The cross street signs 18th and Vine are present on the end of both streets. 18th and vine is a historic and important jazz district in the Kansas City Paseo area. The city will invest over $27 million into the renovation for the district over the next 3 years. photo by Riley McNett

by Hannah Jirousek, Staff Writer

Members of City Council have presented a phased, three year improvement plan for the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District. The intention of this project is to revitalize the 18th and Vine District and surrounding neighborhood, while creating a premier entertainment destination.

“One thing that is important to me and to the community is ensuring that we preserve the rich history of 18th and Vine, “City Councilman Jermaine Reed said. “That is making sure that we do everything we can to protect […] the history of jazz, of baseball and all of those things that really make Kansas City the jazz capital of the world.”

The renovation plans include improved pedestrian lighting, new street curbs and sidewalks, historic building restorations and plans to connect the 18th and Vine area with the Crossroads Arts District. Additional parking, residential and commercial spaces are planned to create a more attractive and comprehensive destination for tourists and KC natives alike.

The funds for these redevelopments are to be allocated through bond proceeds, donations, grant funding and tax incentives that will total around $27.6 million. The City’s funding commitment will be accompanied by a minimum private investment of $12.15 million, about 43.9 percent of the total proposal amount. Various federal, state and local incentives will be employed to maximize the City’s investment return and support of the project.

“This revitalization is essential for 18th and Vine, but it clearly has citywide benefits,” City Manager Troy Schulte said in a city press release. “That’s why the plan has built-in incentives to attract commercial and residential development because we want to end up with a sustainable district that will flourish for many, many years to come.”

Though the redevelopments will potentially stabilize the area’s economy and promote visitor traffic, some neighborhood residents oppose the extensive plan.

“This a development that will help Kansas City, but who in Kansas City will it help? Here we are, we’ve been here all our lives. I don’t see them rushing to do [anything] over the years [while] we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing [for the community]”, advocate for community outreach Pat Clarke said to KSHB 41 Action News in July.

Others disapprove the revitalization due to the projected increases in neighborhood home costs after the projects are completed.

“They’re moving out the inner city,” Darcus Marzett-Hellaby said to Fox 4 News in May. “And, it’s a shame that this is the oldest black co-op in the nation. Pride was here, and they’re just taking it all away for money and greed, and do not care about us whatsoever.”

During the 1920s through 1940s, the 18th and Vine District was home to the hottest new jazz music and the heart of Negro Leagues Baseball. This historic area is internationally recognized as one of the many cradles of jazz music. The jazz of 18th and Vine evolving during this period was new and distinct, creating unique, riff-based blues that were piloted in the district’s crowded clubs.

Today, the Jazz District is still home to some of the same iconic jazz hubs, like the Blue Room or Gem Theater, but lacks the same traffic.

“There has been a perception that 18th and Vine has never lived up to expectations,” said Schulte.

Despite many revitalization attempts, the area has never fully returned to the same glory days as during the jazz era; prompting further dedication to these more comprehensive redevelopments.

“There is still much work needed to reverse the resultant impacts of decades of neglect and disenfranchisement,” the city’s Vine Street District Economic Development Plan stated.

The City is actively beginning phase one of the renovation project. Spending for phase one includes $1.5 million for construction of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center and more than $400,000 for an outdoor amphitheater. This money will also be used by the city to buy property not currently under local government control and to stabilize the Boone Theater. A recent City Council vote approved a $7 million infusion for the next phase of improvements at 18th and Vine.

“If we are going to do this, we ought to consider spending up to $27.6m and doing it right; declaring victory once and for all at 18th and Vine,” Schulte said.