District Manager Encourages Participation as Opportunities Emerge

Like other neighborhoods in the Kansas City area, Martin City navigates change as a way of life. Smart use of time and resource investments is the name of the game as the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID) balances mapping out opportunities and managing key support in the year ahead.

All things considered, progress continues to eclipse setbacks in our neighborhood, and there’s a growing feeling that our best days are still ahead. MCCID District Manager Vickie Wolverton says how far we go and how fast we get there will largely be determined by the persistence of community leaders combined with the participation of more businesses.

“You hear people say Kansas City is entering a golden age, and we want to be a proud part of it. There’s so much new energy and passion in Martin City, and surrounding communities as well,” says Wolverton, strolling with us along the 135th Street sidewalk as traffic whizzes by the new Freddy’s, Firestone, El Maguey, Martin City Telegraph offices, and other businesses on the District’s west side.

“We know life in Martin City can be even better if we motivate more businesses off the sidelines and into the community effort. We are all in this together, and the more businesses pull together, the more we can accomplish for the neighborhood we all love. Now is the time!”

Vickie Wolverton is Martin City’s longtime District Manager

Movers and Shakers Shaping the Landscape

Martin City icon David Van Noy raised eyebrows in the past year when he announced his well-deserved retirement from running the landmark business RC’s Restaurant after more than four decades. David’s big smile and tireless work ethic have always been a symbol of our community’s unique personality, and we were relieved when he sold to neighborhood newcomers promising to stay true to his family’s legacy.

New owners Rob and Sommack Paxton renewed RC’s commitment to Martin City and vowed to continue Van Noy’s tradition, from the classic fried chicken to an ambitious reboot of entertainment in the lounge. The Paxtons not only reinvested in RC’s, they also built on the restaurant’s success and opened Rockin’ Wok Thai upstairs, giving the one-of-a-kind building at 330 East 135th spicy new life from top to bottom.

Under new ownership, RC’s keeps cookin’ downstairs while Rockin’ Wok Tai spices up the upstairs along with rockin’ lounge music.

Familiar face Rachel Long and her husband Eric took ownership of The Martin Event Space after tapping a deal with former owner and Martin City Brewing Company tycoon Matt Moore. The Longs are reinventing the historic space with classy remodeling and exciting ideas for hosting themed public parties in addition to private weddings, banquets, and other milestone events that built The Martin’s reputation.

Rachel Long and her husband Eric are the new owners of The Martin Event Space.

The Running Well Store arrived recently with a dazzling retail splash in the same building shared by longtime Martin City event pros KC Running Company. The two businesses now work hand-in-hand as the unrivaled center of the running universe in South Kansas City. Running Well immediately painted the building in bright blues, sending the message that it’s proud to be part of Martin City’s colorful community picture.

The Running Well Store is an exciting addition to Martin City.

And just up the street, rising residential real estate stars Hagen Anderson & Associates moved into a wonderfully designed two-story modern space with every intention of wearing Martin City as a badge of honor.

Hagen Anderson brought in food from Martin City’s famed restaurants to help wow its grand opening crowd.

Hagen Anderson & Associates partners Michael, Liz, and Maribeth (left).

We were sad to say goodbye to Hangers Cleaners after nearly two decades in Martin City, but were left with gratitude for Joe Runyan and Brian Gunnerson’s long run in an extremely tough industry. Lukas Wine & Spirits in the Stateline Shops became Total Wine. Volleyball Beach sold to Genesis Health but will keep its name and famously unique culture. Luther Mazda took over the Mazda dealership, and Related Home Furnishings came and went in a flash as family demands quickly grew larger than business dreams.

We expect Dos De Oros’ new restaurant Rey de Oros Taqueria to finally open inside District boundaries this year after more than a year of remodeling the old Martin City Coffee building on Holmes Road, and working through inspections and permits with the City of Kansas City.

Meanwhile, owners of the old Martin City Coffee business are planning to break ground soon on construction of a new building on the large, empty lot across the street. What will go inside the building is not yet known.

Rey De Oros under construction (left) while new construction is also set to begin across the street on Holmes Road.

A Vote of Confidence in Remodels and Reinvestments

In addition to the influx of new businesses, several existing businesses recently pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps to grow with Martin City’s future. Midwest Recovery Centers designed amazing features outdoors at their properties along Holmes Road, from a picnic patio to a zen garden!

A warm, wonderful experience for patients at the Midwest Recovery Centers residential campus south of 135th Street on Holmes Road.

Forest Ridge Villas, the first major residential development in our community in years, finished construction and added surrounding amenities ranging from a dog park and jogging trails to a heated salt water pool. Martin City business Rosehill Gardens helped with landscaping features. Nice work, friends!

A new, welcoming addition to the Martin City community at Forest Ridge Villas.

The Forest Ridge Villas fenced dog park.

Rosehill Gardens helped Forest Ridge Villas with landscaping.

One of Martin City’s oldest businesses, Eagles Gymnastics, remodeled its pre-school area to make room for a larger crowd of eager new Eagles. Let’s Face It celebrated its tenth anniversary with a complete overhaul of its two-story space. Margarita’s Martin City sacrificed a few weeks of business to shut down and put in new flooring from the restrooms to the kitchen. Pearce Construction put a nice touch on the heart of our community on 135th Street with a classy new sign at the end of its driveway.

A major modern upgrade at Let’s Face It with room to grow.

There’s no denying the pinnacle of recent neighborhood construction happened at the Martin City K-8 School, where the addition of a stunning new gym and music room made more room for the school’s expanding population.

Local dignitaries attended the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating Martin City K-8’s expanded space.

Vacant Properties Challenge

We’ve certainly learned property ownership can get sticky. Not every property has one owner, a local owner, or a clear plan for development. Coordinating and constructing is a complicated process when you’re contemplating millions of dollars and the permanency of brick and mortar.

Like you, we are extremely impatient waiting for the unveiling of plans for the development of the old Sutherland property at 135th and Holmes, and the site of the old paintball business across the street. Both have the same owner, but at last check, construction costs were slowing plans for development. As soon as we know something, we’ll pass it along. The challenge is similar at the vacant property next to RC’s and the abandoned ‘Martin City Sports’ complex nearby.

The waiting game drags on while new owners of the old Sutherlands property and the old paintball property across the street (left) at 135th & Holmes decide what to do next.

The MCCID is doing all it can to move things along at these vacant properties, but our power is limited. Meanwhile, we encourage all Martin City businesses to remain diligent in the upkeep of their properties.

Whether your business is large or small, please, don’t allow your building or grounds to fall into disrepair. Peeling paint, detached gutters, crumbling brick, and overgrown greenery hurt your business and the rest of the neighborhood. The MCCID is working hard to revitalize Martin City. Fielding complaints about eyesores only slows down the effort and weighs on property values.

Developing Infrastructure and Maintaining Services

In terms of key infrastructure supporting the growth of Martin City and the quality of life we share, it’s fair to say that the MCCID’s highest priority continues to be the planned overhaul of Holmes Road.

The pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the project’s timeline as work at KCMO City Hall backed up and budgets tightened. The City has now informed the MCCID that the design phase of Holmes, everything from sidewalks and bike lanes, to curbs, street lights and gutters, is expected to ramp up this spring. But it could be late 2025 or 2026 before construction gets underway.

“We’re excited to see new momentum in the Holmes Road project,” says Wolverton. “We’ll keep working to get it going as soon as possible, and we’re already planning to help the City with securing necessary right-of-way during the design phase.”

Meanwhile, a substantial repaving effort is scheduled to help Martin City through the wait. The City has received a grant to repave Holmes from HWY 150 up to almost 120th Street. Blue Ridge will be repaved too, from Stateline to Grandview Road. A stretch of Wornall will be included as well. Expect the repaving to begin this spring.

The overhaul of Holmes Road is badly needed in Martin City and long overdue. Holmes will be repaved starting this spring.

Conversations also continue for improving Oak Street, extending south from 135th Street, where several industrial businesses are located in Martin City. The MCCID is working with the City and business leaders on Oak to shape solutions for the street’s deteriorating condition and related problems. “Martin City is not just about 135th Street,” Wolverton emphasizes. “The MCCID realizes we need to move the entire community forward, including Holmes Road, Oak Street, and others.”

In 2024, the KCPD will continue watching over our neighborhood during the day with Community Interaction Officer Mary McCall leading the way. Orion Security will continue patrolling overnight. The MCCID covers costs of Orion’s services aimed at keeping an eye on properties and checking for things like open doors, open gates, and suspicious activity. Business owners must complete a basic form to ensure quick contact if Orion needs to get in touch with you immediately.

American Companies, a Martin City business headquartered on Holmes Road will keep sweeping key streets monthly in 2024. (A reminder to all businesses within the District: you are responsible for your own timely snow removal.) And Rosehill Gardens will continue their landscaping work along our sidewalks, including those hanging baskets and holiday decorations that help give our neighborhood distinctive appeal.

The addition of signage that clearly marks Martin City’s business district boundaries and greets visitors is a hot topic, according to Wolverton. The project is in the design phase and moving toward the construction phase. Everything from traffic flow, property permission, City codes, and visibility opportunities is influencing the effort to locate signage in the best spots with the clearest views.

“We’re really excited about signage marking entrances to the MCCID at multiple points surrounding the neighborhood. Each sign will also celebrate Martin City as a distinct Kansas City neighborhood, and give a nod to its character and heritage.”

The signage project is part of a larger branding project you may have already noticed. You can expect signage to echo new Martin City logos now appearing on everything from our vibrant social media properties to our letterhead and emails.

Growing Events That Strengthen Destination Appeal

In 2023, the Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade drew a huge, wonderful crowd of families having good clean fun along 135th Street as dozens of floats, vehicles, dancers, and even horses passed by. We’re known for our parade, and fans from across the Kansas City area and beyond poured into our streets for our biggest community event of the year. Final planning is now underway for our 2024 parade set for Sunday March 10 at 2pm with the theme ‘Shamrocks and Smiles.’

The Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade is a huge attraction putting local businesses and organizations in the spotlight.

The Whiskey Run 5k is a Martin City tradition. There’s nothing else quite like it anywhere and that’s why it’s helped our community become a popular destination. And now, we’re going to make it even better, by moving it to late October and rebranding it The Martin City Spirits Run, combining a Halloween theme and ‘spirits’ including whiskey and more! Details will follow as we take our tradition to the next level and uncork all the fun details.

We kind of got stuck between a rock and a hard place with poor weather and inflexible planning factors when the Martin City Holiday Lighting Celebration fell through in 2023. But don’t worry, the event will be back in its full glory in 2024. Law Enforcement Appreciation Day will also return with an exciting new partnership with local school children. And the MCCID is exploring new events to raise the profile of our hometown culture even higher, including expansion of the popular seasonal pop up market on Saturdays outside Sidelines Custom Floral.

The Saturday Pop Up Market outside Sidelines is drawing more and more attention.

“All events in Martin City, from the Holiday Lighting to Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, are the result of input from businesses that make up the District,” says Wolverton. “We need more help developing events like these. They bring the community together and strengthen its destination appeal. Don’t be shy! Sharing your thoughts could trigger a big idea or spark conversation that leads to a new opportunity. We’ve already got some new event ideas in the works in 2024 thanks to people who spoke up.”

Plenty of Opportunities to Get Involved

We are grateful for members of the local business community who go above and beyond to chart a course for the neighborhood’s future by serving on the MCCID Board of Directors.

Debbie Van Noy of Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse recently retired from the MCCID Chairperson position after serving as our leader since the MCCID’s inception way back in 2005. Thanks Debbie! Van Noy continues to serve as a Board member as Brad Ziegler of KC Running Company serves as our new Chair. Howard Barewin of Volleyball Beach has moved into the Vice Chair position, and we recently welcomed Gail Worth to the Board as a representative of American Companies on Holmes Road.

The Martin City Community Improvement District Board of Directors.

Martin City also has new representation at Kansas City Missouri City Hall. 2023 local elections resulted in new Councilman Johnathan Duncan joining At-Large Councilwoman Andrea Bough in the 6th District, which includes Martin city.

Johnathan Duncan and Andrea Bough represent Martin City on the Kansas City Council.

Of course, you do not need to be on the Board of Directors or the Kansas City Council to help the MCCID make a difference. There’s no doubt that we get more done as a community if we all contribute. Pulling together feeds the momentum of Martin City’s ongoing revitalization effort. Here are at three easy ways your business can pitch in:

1. Attend MCCID Board Meetings. Board meetings are usually held on the second Thursday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at Jess and Jim’s Steakhouse. Meetings are open to the public and you do not need to RSVP if you would like to attend. It’s also a great opportunity to give a presentation highlighting your business!

The MCCID Board meets monthly.

Running Well Store manager Brittany James is among Martin City business representatives who have given presentations at MCCID Board meetings.

2. Mix and mingle at MCCID Happy Hours. These events have become very popular as welcome opportunities for local businesses and their employees to get to know each other, compare notes, and have fun. Attendance keeps growing. Join us!

MCCID Happy Hours at various local businesses are scheduled every quarter.

3. Host a MCCID Happy Hour. It’s a great way to market your business! Is your business within the Martin City Community Improvement District? Hosting a MCCID Happy Hour is a valuable opportunity to raise your profile and increase awareness to attract more attention and customers. MCCID promotion of Happy Hours via email and social media photography can reach thousands of people! Set up is easy and there’s very little cost involved. Contact Vickie Wolverton to find out how to sign up at (816) 308-1023 or email her at manager@martincity.org.

A memorable occasion upstairs at Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse.

Sidelines owner Karyn Brooke hosted a fun and colorful CID Happy Hour.

4. Join a MCCID Committee to contribute neighborhood improvement ideas. Participation doesn’t require much time and your input will help shape our community’s future. Contact Vickie Wolverton to find out how to get involved.

“Martin City is on track and our future looks bright,” says Wolverton, reflecting on nearly six years as District Manager. “But we really need all the help we can get as we tackle infrastructure projects, develop community services, and forge growth strategies. Now is the perfect time to take ownership and embrace your role in Martin City.”