Keystone Initiative Lands First Home in East Crossroads

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The Keystone Innovation District has its first address at 800 E. 18th St.

By Kevin Collison

Keystone Community Corp. has landed its first space in the area where it wants to create a downtown innovation campus, sharing quarters in the Goodwill administrative office at 800 E. 18th St.

The new location for what’s called CoLAB marks a milestone in the Keystone endeavor launched several years ago by the Civic Council. It’s intended to help boost Kansas City’s innovation and entrepreneurial sectors.

“Whether an aspiring entrepreneur, a thought leader looking to connect with the innovation
community, a student interested in the intersection of innovation and civic issues, or an artist finding new ways to tell stories, the CoLAB will welcome everyone,” Kevin McGinnis, Keystone CEO, said in a statement.

The first residents at the CoLAB will be the initial seven startups selected for the Social Venture Studio (SVS) program. It’s an initiative by LaunchKC, a partnership between the KC Economic Development Corp. and the Downtown Council.

The Sunderland Foundation has committed $350,000 to fund the SVS program for the first year, with the potential of two additional years of financial support.

SVS was established to support entrepreneurs seeking to provide both social impact and return on investment, according to a press release. Participants in the six-month program receive professional support and grant awards ranging from $35,000-$50,000.

“We’re thrilled with the number of qualified and diverse applications we received,” McGinnis stated.

A preliminary rendering of the building that had been proposed for the Keystone Innovation District at 18th and Troost. (Image from BNIM)

Keystone has been seeking to make the transition from ambitious civic concept to creating an actual campus, Keystone Innovation District, over the past couple years.

The endeavor and J.E. Dunn Capital had been in negotiations with the KCATA to build a five-story office, classroom and business incubator at 18th and Troost, but those talks collapsed late last year.

Keystone also wanted to redevelop and occupy the former Goodwill office and warehouse building at 18th and Campbell, but a contract to buy the building expired.

Regardless, McGinnis remains optimistic the larger vision of creating an Innovation Campus in the 18th Street corridor between the East Crossroads and 18th & Vine District will ultimately be fulfilled.

“While a future district is still part of the long-term vision and programming efforts are already underway, the Keystone CoLAB is a significant milestone,” according to the press release.

“The space will be a collaborative, innovative event venue, public workspace, and programming hub designed to bring people together at every level.”

The initial seven startups selected for the Social Venture Studio program will help keep the new CoLAB space activated. This fall, the SVS companies are expected to make pitches to potential funders and supporters.

“SVS is a prime example of how we as a city can tackle many societal issues with creative and sustainable business models that also drive job creation and local investment,” Jim Erickson, director of strategic initiatives for the KCEDC, said in a statement.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held recently at Keystone’s new address, Kevin McGinnis, CEO, is holding the scissors. (Photo courtesy Keystone Community Corp.)

The initial Social Venture Studio participants are:

–Diversity Telehealth, founded by Dr. Shelley Cooper, described as a platform that replaces no-show and late cancellation medical appointments with on-demand telehealth visits.

–The Prospect KC, Shanita McAfee-Bryant, described as a social enterprise nonprofit that addresses local food insecurity through innovative solutions that provide access to nutritious whole foods, education and skill-building, and wraparound support services.

–Healthy Hip Hop, Roy Scott, founder and CEO, described as infusing hip hop culture with
innovative technology, education and positive attributes.

–EPEC Inc, Natasha Kirsch and Jarrod Sanderson, described as having a pilot program that’s a two-generational approach to breaking the cycle of poverty through the high wage, high demand trade of pet grooming and complete wrap around
services.

–Kanbe’s Markets, Maxfield Kaniger, described as working to build a more equitable and efficient food system by using the excess food from wholesalers or farmers and redirecting it to the most appropriate end user via a variety of programs.

–One Pair LLC, Jerren Thornhill, described as a shoe store designed, owned and operated by the kids of KC. The company buys, sells and trades shoes, along with having six
different local clothing brands.

–KC Can Compost, Kristan Chamberlain, described as being committed to improving the environmental and social landscapes of Kansas City through systematic organic waste diversion and green job training for those struggling with barriers to employment.

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