By Kevin Collison
Midtown Kansas City residents are experiencing a split identity about their neighborhoods these days, according to a new survey by Midtown KC Now.
On the one hand, survey respondents overwhelming believe (82 percent) that Midtown, the wide corridor of neighborhoods between Union Station and the Plaza flanking Main and Broadway, is improving.
But when asked if they feel safer than a year ago, a big majority (68 percent) said no.
So how does Midtown KC Now, the nonprofit organization responsible for promoting Midtown, and running community improvement districts to make it cleaner and safer, diagnose this contrast?
“It speaks to people are excited about the streetcar, there’s a bunch of new businesses and things look better,” said Kevin Klinkenberg, Midtown KC Now executive director.
“But, there is a lot of anxiety about public safety. It’s been an increasing drumbeat.
“This summer has been rough in specific areas, everything from open drug dealing and related activity, a lot of property break-ins, storefronts busted and a lot of open tent encampments popping up.
“And there’s been a lot more shootings and gunfire. Every weekend, it seems there’s shooting activity and it’s got people on edge.”
The crime and quality of life issues in Midtown parallel those in other areas of the city. One of the reasons the Crossroads District is pursuing a community improvement district is to bolster security.
A beleaguered Kansas City police department and its Central Patrol Division generally only has 12- to 15 officers patrolling the central core of the city from the river to the Country Club Plaza from State Line Road to Troost at any one time.
Klinkenberg said the results of the survey will help focus his organization on trying to improve public safety in Midtown.
“How can we best work with KCPD and other officials to see how we can best work on these things,” he said.
The survey was taken between June 9 and July 7 and attracted 365 respondents. About two-thirds of the people answering the survey were between 25- and 54 year-old; 57 percent identified as women, 40 percent men.
When asked about what kind of development they liked in Midtown, respondents answered the variety of small businesses, its growth and development, and its proximity to art, dining, theaters and other entertainment as among their top answers.
Respondents said they’d like even more shops and restaurants, and more new housing at a variety of price levels. They also preferred continued development and growth, and restoration of older buildings.
Concerns included housing affordability, low quality development, excessive tax incentives for new developments, short-term rentals and blight.
On the topic of cleanliness and safety, respondents were worried about crime in general and not feeling safe. Other issues including vagrancy, loitering, panhandling, theft, gun violence, late night activity and slow police response times.
The results of the entire survey can be found here.
And despite the neighborhood uproar over parking that often occurs when new residential projects are proposed for Midtown, only 7 percent of the respondents said lack of parking was an issue to them.
“It’s not always the people who respond to surveys who are going to public hearings,” he said.
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