Residents who oppose new WalMart aim for community center - KCTV5

Residents who oppose new WalMart aim for community center instead

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Unrest over a proposal to sell a vacant school in the Waldo neighborhood to Walmart has gone from negative to positive.

The last meeting, held by Kansas City Public Schools, resulted in many remarks about why a Walmart Neighborhood Market was not the right fit for the closed Bingham Middle School. The building is at 77th Street and Wornall Avenue and a neighborhood market is essentially a grocery store.

The concern is that a business open 24/7 in a quiet residential area would create traffic, noise and crime issues. Some also object to Walmart as a company.

About 50 residents gathered Thursday night to hear about an alternative proposal that would apparently satisfy disgruntled residents.

"Everyone has a basic idea of a community center, an arts center, a cultural center type thing," said Melissa Saubers, who calls herself the Mayor of Waldo. "And there are some actual solid plans."

Those plans come from a group of residents who comprise a nonprofit organization called South Waldo Community Investors. Jeff Clayton, a commercial real estate developer in that group, told the audience that the group pitched a community center plan for the place two years ago, when the Kansas City School District first sought bids on the property.

"Our desire was to continue that community use for that facility," Clayton said.

He said South Waldo Community Investors offered $700,000 for the property, but the district wanted more, which he said was not feasible for the plan in mind, so other offers won out. The first offer to get some play was for a Hen House grocery store. When Hen House dropped out, WalMart stepped in. The district has until Jan. 31 to consider that option.

District officials have said that community feedback is essential. They want neighbors on board. But they also want fair market value for the property. The most recent figure listed on the district's website is a 2008 appraisal of $3.2 million.

Organizers advised the audience how to give feedback via official district forms and how to be a part of the organizing and marketing effort to make the WalMart offer unpalatable to the district and the school board, which has ultimate say over the deal.

Clayton said the group disbanded after their offer was rejected, but the nonprofit entity still exists, and the group would be interested in re-working the plan to give it another go. The plan is to have a gym, outdoor sports practice fields, and a day care center. Income would come from the day care and rental fees for the athletic fields.

He said the idea came from him and other local parents who often had to shuttle their kids as far out as Lee's Summit to find suitable community practice fields.

Click here to see previous coverage and links related to the project.

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