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Center for Engagement and Community Development

News Features

Professor Reaches Out to Kansas City Neighborhood

K-State Engagement E-News, September 2008 (PDF)

by Kristin Slater

The neighborhood Washington Wheatley, Kansas City, Mo., was in need of assistance. It faced problems with housing possession, crime and availability of jobs.

CECD awarded Sheri Smith, associate professor in the department of landscape architecture/regional and community planning at Kansas State University, an Engagement Incentive Grant in fall 2006 in order to carry out this project. Smith used the funding to reach out to the Washington Wheatley community, located between 18th and 27th Street, and between Prospect Avenue and Interstate 70.

Smith reached out to this community because she saw its need for momentum, and she wanted to provide technical assistance to the neighborhood association in the process of community development.

One of the issues Smith noticed was how uninformed the people of Washington Wheatley are. When an owner of a house passes, residents are unaware of the change of possession of the property, and in turn are unsure of what should happen with the property taxes.

Smith's focus is to provide the resources to help educate the citizens so they don’t lose the homes that have always been in their families. Smith is working with the president of the Neighborhood Association, Marlon Hammons, to keep the people of Washington Wheatley in their homes.

The Neighborhood Association is the main organization working to improve the Washington Wheatley community. It is working to create more jobs so the residents have money to pay for property taxes. The Association is focused on the need of its citizens to be incorporated. For example, if a new store or housing unit is going in, citizens could be hired to help with those projects. It could also be something as small as starting a micro business for mowing lawns.

Smith said, "While the Washington Wheatley community has a long road ahead of them, they have made significant strides."

Smith with grant support helped the neighborhood association create a newsletter to inform citizens of issues like property taxes, and to highlight companies committed to the neighborhood. The community also enlisted the help of some outside organizations. The city council, the Kansas City Police Department and University of Missouri Kansas City, have all helped with the various projects.

Smith also said the major focus of redevelopment in the community is not the physical aspect. It is about keeping the residents in their homes, and preserving the history the neighborhood represents.