by Mary Wilson
Two motels in Kansas City were demolished by contractor JE Dunn last week as a result of the original plans for the Cerner Innovations Campus to create more jobs. The approved plan included the parcel of property on the southeast corner of 87th Street and I-435. The motels served as some of the highest crime locations in South Kansas City.
“In addition to thanking Cerner for creating 16,000 new jobs in Kansas City with one of the largest projects in the country including billions of dollars of investment in South Kansas City, the project also creates $6 million for the Hickman Mills School District,” said Sixth District At-Large Councilman Scott Taylor. “Cerner will work with the district to create the workers of tomorrow through STEM programs.”
The City will also receive $2 million in infrastructure improvements in surrounding neighborhoods because of the Cerner project. After initial approval, Cerner had intentions of expanding the project to include the property with the motels.
“These two hotels were high-crime areas and creating a lot of work for our police department,” said Taylor. “Quite frankly, they could spend their time elsewhere doing other things.”
The Cerner Innovations Campus is the largest economic development project in the State of Missouri’s history, and the motels continued to be a nuisance in the area.
“The bottom line is, these hotels needed to come down,” said Sixth District Councilman Kevin McManus. “Hopefully small businesses and homeowners will see this investment, not just in removing this blight, but the investment in infrastructure and the investment by Cerner, and will see the opportunity to make their own investment in their community.”
McManus stated that the demolition of the motels serves as a symbol of promise for the area’s future. The A1 Hotel and Capital Inn, according to Major Louis Perez, South Patrol Commander, have used a lot of police manpower over the last several years, as the location was a breeding ground for crime in the area.
“The hotels ranked high in call for service demands for the division,” said Perez. “Crimes included homicides, assaults and prostitution, making it a nuisance business.”
Some crimes spilled out into the neighboring communities and businesses, according to Perez. He added that the demolition helps free up officers to answer other emergency calls and provides the opportunity to put officers back in their assigned neighborhoods.
“The surrounding neighborhoods and businesses are much safer and thriving because of the work that’s been done,” said Perez. One area business owner reported that they have seen a decrease in trespassing, panhandling and stealing.
“South Kansas City is on the move and we are going through a renaissance here,” said Missouri State Representative DaRon McGee. “We are getting statewide recognition and notice. This is just one step in the progress we are making.”
Former Councilman John Sharp, who has lived in the community for 50 years, said that his house is less than five minutes from the Cerner campus.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see these motels start coming down,” said Sharp. “I remember when this Ramada Inn was very nice at one time, but it sure wasn’t nice in recent years.”
With the Cerner development, the area has also seen a revitalization of retail, and there is potential for new residential projects as well, according to Sharp. With the reclaiming of the property for a positive, public benefit to the community, Cerner, who has already built two new buildings, is expected to expand even further on the campus over the next decade.