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Watch the Video

An interesting article about an upcoming KC development documentary. Produced by Inland Seas Production, it is called "Mending the Heart of an American City" and will chronicle much of the construction and restoration currently in progress in the rebirth of downtown KC. It is due to come out some time after the projects have been completed and may be shown on channels like Discovery, A&E, etc.

Officials at the Kansas City Area Development Council, the organization behind the campaign, estimate there is $7.5 billion in fresh development occurring across the region, $4.5 billion of it devoted to rebuilding downtown.

Here is more info For more info here is the website

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You got some good press here too!


By Lorraine Mirabella
Originally published May 5, 2006

Touring Kansas City, Mo.'s Quality Hill neighborhood in the mid-1980s, Richard Baron looked beyond the crumbling and vacant former mansions and hotels built by the city's mid-19th century elite. Though residents with the means to get out had fled decades earlier, the developer envisioned a community that would attract people of all incomes.

His company, McCormack Baron Salazar, took on a redevelopment that created more than 300 restored or new apartments, plus condos and new shops. All are housed in red brick buildings with bay windows and wrought iron railings, just minutes from the commercial district. Nearby, new offices and pricey loft condos are sprouting in refurbished garment factories, and a full-service grocery store is in the works.

In Kansas City and more than a dozen other cities that will soon include Baltimore, the St. Louis developer has been drawn to gritty urban landscapes to build housing for a mix of incomes, a notion the company helped pioneer. Often, the schools are struggling; residents live in outdated and deteriorating public housing, and jobs are hard to come by.

In Baltimore, McCormack Baron will develop the housing portion of an $800 million project to reshape a section of midtown bordered by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Howard and Dolphin streets and Madison Avenue. The complex of state-owned office buildings, which employ some 3,500 workers, is slated to become a 25-acre hub of offices, shops, a hotel and mixed-income housing centered on Metro subway and light-rail stops.

Ultimately, the State Center project could be the springboard for the 20-year revitalization of a 110-acre swath, with 3,200 homes, 1.2 million square feet of privately developed offices and 570,000 square feet of retail space. Since it was founded in 1973, McCormack Baron says it has developed 113 projects in 28 cities at a cost of $1.5 billion.

"McCormack Baron has conceivably more experience than anybody in dealing with difficult urban sites," said Charlie Duff, executive director of the Midtown Development Corp. "They have a very strong commitment to good design, and they have a very strong commitment to community employment and a national track record of getting things done."

Baron, 63, chairman and chief executive of McCormack Baron Salazar, says he relishes the challenge of tougher, urban projects. They succeed, he believes, when attractive, secure homes are coupled with programs to turn around troubled schools, to foster the arts and to provide job training for those who live there. They flourish, he says, when residents feel pride in their homes, which typically offer amenities such as washers and dryers, swimming pools and security systems.

"What we're doing in our communities is trying to create places that focus on housing opportunities for a broad cross section of the community while looking at issues related to family and kids," said Baron. He worked as a Legal Aid lawyer representing public housing tenants in St. Louis before starting what was then McCormack Associates with homebuilder Terry McCormack.

"We're trying to find ways of serving families and children that live in the community," McCormack said. In developing close to 13,000 units of mixed-income housing over three decades, McCormack Baron has built a reputation for pulling together complex financing deals; lobbying and winning support from government, private foundations and corporations; and gaining the trust and involvement of communities.

The developer sticks with projects for the long term, say those who have worked with the company, as its nonprofit affiliate, Urban Strategies, works on starting or enhancing programs in schools and the arts. "Richard Baron's projects make a huge difference, not just on the block where they're located but in an entire region," said Kathryn Schukar Bader, chairman of U.S. Bancorp's Community Development Corp. in St. Louis, which has been a lender and investor in his company's projects. "The key focus that we share is you can't put unsupported housing in the middle of nothing, or in the middle of negative influences and expect it to succeed. There needs to be an anchor, like schools, churches and employers, some kind of neighborhood center programming."

McCormack Baron will work as part of a team led by Baltimore's Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and including minority-owned Doracon Development and the Canyon Johnson Urban Fund, the private equity fund started by NBA Hall of Fame star Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The developers expect months of planning with the community and state and city government before a detailed plan for State Center will emerge. But the project, to start construction in 2008, will likely include both rental and for-sale housing. Bobby Turner, a managing partner in Canyon Johnson, said his fund's backers share a vision with other team members about revitalizing, rather than gentrifying, urban areas.

"Regentrification involves displacement of existing residents and changing the character of a community," he said. "We attempt to foster opportunities for existing residents and raise the quality of the amenities being provided." Baron said he was attracted to Baltimore's market and the opportunity to build a community centered around public transit. McCormack Baron has worked with neighborhood groups and residents of public housing in many of its projects and plans to do so at State Center, which is adjacent to McCulloh Homes public housing project.

Bader, of U.S. Bancorp, said McCormack Baron projects typically start at the grass roots level. "Some developers come to a neighborhood and say this is what we can do for you," she said. "Richard starts with charrettes [sessions to generate ideas] and meetings with local residents to hear what they want and what they need." The developer sees its work with schools as one way to attract families, Baron said. The company works with superintendents and principals to improve curriculum or finance upgrades. The company has helped set up after-school arts programs or summer school programs, often underwritten by other organizations.

In the late 1980s, McCormack Baron won a bid to redevelop a 20-acre burned-out section of Pittsburgh known as the Lower Hill district, an area close to downtown that had bustled with stores and jazz clubs in the 1940s and 1950s. "It had become a no man's land between the Upper Hill where people were living and the downtown Golden Triangle of the city," said George Whitmer, a former executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, which led the redevelopment for the city.

"At that time, there hadn't been anybody in Pittsburgh who had taken a role in developing low- to moderate-income neighborhoods, outside of the typical Section 8." With the help of subsidies, McCormack Baron developed Crawford Square, the first major new housing built in Pittsburgh in years, with more than 400 new apartments and single-family homes, half priced at market rates and half for low-income residents.

"Certainly a blighted area was improved 200 percent," Whitmer said. "Though housing may not have the impact of a stadium or the Inner Harbor, you have to look at what the area was like before. Did it have an impact on the fringe? Not to the extent you would have hoped, but it made a major impact on the area."

In St. Louis, the company worked with federal and local housing officials to redevelop deteriorating public housing called Vaughn Towers, which was built in 1957. The three-phase Murphy Park project resulted in 413 units of new low-rise homes, with brick fronts, individual entryways and porches, playgrounds and a swimming pool. McCormack Baron formed a neighborhood/private sector partnership to offer day care, job training and youth and health services to residents. Baron also helped raise $4 million for the local Jefferson Elementary School. "This area was heavily blighted and very low-income and Richard Baron basically came in and re-created it," said Bader.
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