An entertainment district based on Kansas City's jazz heritage could be a wonderful boon to that city's downtown as well as a tourist attraction with a national draw.
The Jazz District Redevelopment Group announced last week that an Ohio real estate developer would lead the latest effort to draw retail businesses to the historic 18th and Vine jazz district. The development group has been working for almost 10 years to establish an entertainment area tied to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum.
The group envisions a mix of restaurants, retail and residential development in the area and hopes the Ohio firm will be able to fill some of the vacant ground-floor storefronts. A representative of the Ohio group said that previous efforts to fill the spaces with local entrepreneurs had failed because those business owners lacked the needed experience. The new plan is to recruit national companies, which the Ohio representative said now are looking for growth opportunities outside of shopping malls.
Kansas City has a rich musical history, but its jazz venues haven't always been located in the most inviting areas of town. The jazz and baseball museums seem like a strong anchor for an entertainment district that could be a major downtown destination.
Now seems like a particularly opportune time to pursue such a venture in Kansas City. Tourism to New Orleans, another major jazz center, still is recovering from the damage of Hurricane Katrina, and travelers might be looking for an alternative destination. The new Sprint Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007, providing a major destination point in downtown Kansas City. The facility is expected to host many concerts, athletic contests and other special events, as well as the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, all of which would seem to complement the offerings envisioned at 18th and Vine.
Like many metropolitan areas, Kansas City has struggled to maintain its downtown area as the heart of the city. As residents and shopping areas move to the suburban areas, it becomes harder and harder to draw people downtown. The opportunity to do a little shopping, have dinner and hear a little Kansas City jazz may be just the ticket many visitors are looking for. We wish the developers well as they pursue what could be an exciting venture for Kansas City.