Some residents fought the project, but now demolition began Monday on homes where a future Kansas City crime lab will be built.
A crime lab and a new police substation will be built in the 2600 block of Olive Street. Kaw Valley Wrecking LLC began demolishing the first homes Monday morning.
Wood from the existing homes will be used to build the crime lab and police substation.
The project will cover four blocks and 128 lots in an area bounded by Prospect and Brooklyn avenues and 26 and 27th streets. The project will include demolition of 66 homes that were occupied. The city bought the homes through eminent domain and used money generated by a public safety sales tax approved by voters in 2010.
Some of the residents who lost their homes lived in the neighborhood more than 30 years.
Altogether, the project is estimated to cost $57 million and bring 150 civilian jobs to the area plus more police officers. The hope is the project will spruce up the area, create new jobs and raise property values in the area.
The project will include four buildings designed to look like a campus. A multipurpose room and a community center will be part of the project.
"We are putting a lot of focus on putting minorities, women-owned businesses in this area," said Phillip Yelder, director of the Kansas City Human Relations Department. "Not only those businesses but also individuals to help them find jobs and opportunities with this project."
Some companies working on the project said they are providing jobs to those who live in the area, which pumps money into the neighborhoods.
The hope is to grow a community while figuratively tearing it down.
The east patrol station at 27th Street and Van Brunt Boulevard will be closed and relocated to the new campus. Police say the current building is outdated and crowded.
The current crime lab is scattered over three locations. Police say a consolidated site will make it easier to catch the bad guys sooner.
But issues still remain.
"I've been rooted in this community for over 30 years, and most of the people have been here that long," Powell said. "We're in court right now."
She declined the city's offer for her home and went to court. She disagrees with the city's contention that they got significant input from residents.
Eric Bosch, city architect, said municipal leaders worked hard to seek input from residents and give them a fair value for their homes.
"The city did something they've never done before," he said. "We went through, and we had appraisals done by three different companies. And we gave the homeowners not only the best appraisals, but if they lived in their house they got a 25-percent addition to that, and if they had proof that their family had been in the house the last 50 years, we gave an addition to that."
The Rev. John Modest Miles welcomes the new facility that will rise up across the street from his church. He said more police presence will reduce crime in the neighborhood.
"I think it's so wonderful to know the neighborhood as I have seen it the last 26 years and see the decline and what has happened in the neighborhood," he said.
Completion of the construction will take an estimated two years, and it will be done in phases. Construction will begin this spring after the demolition is completed in the coming weeks.
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