Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone: making great use of stimulus funds
There has been a lot written about how federal stimulus money has not done as much as one might hope for existing urban communities. By contrast, quite a bit of the money has instead been slated for highway projects.
A shining exception, though, may be found in Kansas City, whose Congressman Emanuel Cleaver has championed what he has called a "Green Impact Zone" in that city. The idea is to bring federal stimulus funds and other federal program support in a range of categories to a single distressed area of the city to aid in its restoration and improvement. From a description written by the Brookings Institution:
"Some specific plans include weatherizing every home that needs it to save homeowners money; demolishing dangerous buildings; repaving streets; replacing a key neighborhood bridge; establishing a bus rapid transit system, providing a comprehensive job training and placement program, providing integrated community policing and neighborhood services, and expanding the capacity of neighborhood-based organizations. The zone strategy also involves developing a sustainable strategy for the area, instituting a smart-grid project, and demonstrating how climate protection strategies can be implemented at the neighborhood level, benefiting both the neighborhood and the region. A key feature cutting across all these plans is training the jobless in the zone to do all the new work and connect with opportunities outside of the zone."
In addition to the federal involvement, which prompted a proud visit from federal leaders (including HUD secretary Shaun Donovan and DOT deputy secretary John Pocari), private capital is also being attracted to the area. To that end, local utility Kansas City Power & Light has announced plans to spend $24 million on new technologies in the area. (The company is also seeking $24 million in stimulus money to expand the program.) The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has also started construction on a new bus rapid transit line (with help from federal stimulus dollars).
Earlier this year, the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department was awarded a grant to plan a $50 to $70 million Climate Sustainability Center for the neighborhood. According to a story in the Brush Creek Community Partners newsletter, Rep. Cleaver "says the center's mission will be to develop a sustainable workforce for green jobs, environmentally friendly applications and products, and research for the 21st Century":
"It would include a green small business incubator and a botanic garden. [The Congressman] envisions significant partnership between the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the area's corporate, institutional and labor communities, and the City of Kansas City.
"The building itself will be planned to go beyond LEED platinum and be a 'Living Campus,' generating its own electricity, and performing on-site storm water collection for reuse or treatment through green practices."
Read more about the various Green Impact Zone initiatives here. Let's wish them well.
Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment. For more posts, see his blog's home page.
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