The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/KCK and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) launched construction of a $4.5-million Midtown Transit Center today at 47th and State Avenue near the old Indian Springs Mall.
The Midtown KCK MetroCenter will not only make riding the bus more comfortable and convenient, it is also spurring long-awaited plans to demolish the mostly abandoned shopping center and redevelop the area. With construction of the Transit Center underway, Unified Government officials are also moving ahead with plans to move city offices out of Indian Springs to a new location nearby and tear down the mall.
"Really what we're talking about today is moving vision into reality and into progress. I think what's most appropriate and significant is that we're using transit and some of our community service entities to be the catalyst for redevelopment of this site," says Mayor Joe Reardon.
The 11,000 square foot Transit Center will open in late 2013 with room for eight buses. It will also be the new home for the KCK Police Department Midtown Patrol, Area Agency on Aging offices and a space for community meetings and activities. Unified Government operations are currently the only thing still open in the mall.
"If you go across the country and do a survey you will find that transportation is an obstacle for a service prevision for a lot of non-profit agencies. So we are very excited to be part of a mid-town location that's going to give the Area Agency on Aging the visibility that we need and that will provide access and mobility for the population we serve," says Director of Area Agency on Aging, Ruth Jones. "For the first time in history we're going to be able to bring seniors in-house and provide services to them."
"The groundbreaking today is a true testament to the foresight and commitment for transit. I think that's so important because in so many cases transit is an afterthought and gets, sort of, pushed to the back. In this redevelopment project, we're taking a prime spot," says Mark Huffer, KCATA General Manager. "Mayor Reardon we want to congratulate you for that vision and that commitment. I think this type of cooperation is absolutely indicative of the increasingly important role transit is playing in our region."
The Midtown Metro Center and a new Downtown Transit Center at 7th and Minnesota are part of the new State Avenue/KCK Connex Line which will travel along a 14-mile transit route that begins at 10th and Main in downtown KCMO, travels through downtown KCK and ends at Village West at 109th & Parallel Parkway. Both transit centers will be custom-built with improved passenger waiting areas and amenities such as real-time passenger information.
"The wonderful thing about investing in transit in Kansas City, Kansas is; it's put to good use from day one! So before we started on this project, before we get to a more efficient and effective transit operation across State Ave, our system today, both the "Bus" that we run through UG Transit and the Metro system that's run by the ATA within Wyandotte County, is set to hit 1.3 million riders in this year of 2012 - a record breaking year for us," Reardon says.
The $10.5 million bus enhancement project is be funded primarily through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additional funds are being provided by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Livability grants and the UG.
"This is a great opportunity for investment. The whole purpose of those programs was to stimulate jobs and I hope that when this project is done, we will see your vision accomplished in this area," says Mokhtee Ahmad, Region VII Administrator of Federal Transit.
Meanwhile, the Neighborhood Resource Center and its employees will move from Indian Springs Mall to a new location at 4953 State Avenue, the site of a closed U.S. Post Office. The new NRC offices will house a half dozen Unified Government Operations including, Liveable Neighborhoods; Code Enforcement; Rental Licensing; Building Inspection; Demolition; Business Licensing and Community Policing.
Those UG offices will move to the new location in early 2013. Bulldozers and wrecking balls are set to demolish the Indian Springs Mall buildings beginning in February 2013. Unified Government officials solicited redevelopment proposals for the site earlier this year and are reviewing those ideas from developers now. It's too soon to tell when a developer will be selected and work to rebuild the area will begin.
The new Neighborhood Resource Center Offices at 4953 State Avenue offer citizens plenty of free parking and easy access off of I-635 and I-70.
"Day-in and day-out the folks on our bus system are Wyandotte County residents going to and from work. It's an essential service that we provide to make sure people can get out there, get to their jobs, get to their careers, and raise their family everyday in our community. From day one it will be greatly used and appreciated," Reardon said.