New Responsibilities, Opportunities and Possibilities Keep Progress Rolling Along.
Martin City has come a long way and we have so much to be proud of, but all eyes are still focused on the future as the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID) thinks about where to channel momentum next. The MCCID has worked hard to set an example for how to manage a CID the right way, but the work never ends and competing priorities continue to demand constant evaluation… and re-evaluation. Here’s a glimpse at what lies ahead for Martin City, and a few insider thoughts about what could be possible.
Primary Roads to Progress
The successful redevelopment of 135th Street marked a core achievement for the MCCID. The goal of overhauling Martin City’s main drag was the whole reason the MCCID came into existence in the first place back in 2005. Emphasis has shifted to maintenance over the past year, which is a little more complicated than it may seem.
“We’ve got this beautiful new street and now we have to make sure we take care of it,” says MCCID District Manager Vickie Wolgast. “We continue to work through what that means from repairs to keeping the street clean and clear.”
The MCCID is addressing issues like snow removal and street sweeping, and discussions with CID businesses are bringing other issues to light. KC Running Company Event Director and MCCID Board member Brad Ziegler recognizes a need to bring uniformity to the way our community handles upkeep in common areas.
“It may not be the CID’s job to take care of every situation, but it is our job to help determine who’s responsible for what. We need to create a shared understanding in the community about where the line is between the CID, property owners, and businesses when it comes to upkeep.”
Ziegler makes an important point that’s bigger than 135th Street. The MCCID has a lot of heavy lifting ahead as our community’s renaissance continues to grow. Much of that growth will depend on clearly defining the MCCID’s responsibilities and boundaries to avoid confusion and conflict with the community it serves.
“Take snow removal for example. Some businesses are piling it up on the sidewalk, some are taking full responsibility for clearing it, and others aren’t doing anything at all,” says Ziegler. “It doesn’t make sense to spend all of this money on nice amenities like big sidewalks without clear follow up plans for maintaining them. The whole point with sidewalks is to make Martin City more walkable, but that’s not happening when you open your car door and step into a snow drift”
Ziegler also points out the challenge won’t get any easier in the future, “Now is the time to work through these issues before the Holmes Road project gets going. We’ll have to do upkeep all along there too.”
Volleyball Beach Owner and MCCID Board Vice Chairman Howard Barewin takes a special interest in Holmes Road development plans as one of many business owners on Martin City’s east side anxious for construction to start. “It’s great to see the Holmes project uniting the MCCID Board like 135th Street did,” says Barewin. “We’ve got to keep the momentum going and keep the pressure on to see this thing through.”
Barewin believes beautification along Holmes will be key, and like Ziegler, sees the role of maintenance rising. “Improving Holmes Road itself is huge, but the beautification possibilities could really open things up for a better overall experience that builds on what we’ve achieved on 135th Street. These streets are major pieces of our progress and we’ll need to plan for keeping them in good shape.”
Meanwhile the MCCID is also working to expand beautification and related efforts throughout a growing community. Landscaping complete with shrubs, trees, bushes, flowers and street banners have drawn quite a bit of praise as a big step forward in Martin City’s appeal.
“Our goal is to spread those improvements throughout Martin City,” says Wolgast. “We’re also developing a comprehensive signage plan so visitors will know when they enter the Martin City district. Bike racks are coming too, this summer, and an asphalt trail is in the works along Holmes.”
Barewin says security also plays a primary role in Martin City’s progress.
“Martin City has come a long way since the old days, years ago, when we didn’t have the best reputation. Thankfully, community policing efforts and overnight private security patrols have been able to change all of that.”
Barewin’s instincts for keeping security near the top of the MCCID’s priority list are well-grounded.
“We have to stay focused on security. I’m not sure any one thing could threaten our community’s momentum more than that. We can’t backslide. We have to protect what we’ve achieved. Security isn’t cheap but it’s vital. We continue to look at ways to make it even better whether that’s through technology or more presence of security staff. Probably most important is participation. Not all Martin City businesses are involved in our security effort and we need everyone to step up to keep it strong.”
Uniting Businesses and Attracting Opportunity
Unique places to eat and drink have long defined Martin City’s profile, but our community’s diversity may be a hidden superpower. We have so many different kinds of businesses that give our community this ‘big city-small town” appeal; athletics, retail, professional services, industrial, and so much more. The challenge is in figuring out how to get more businesses into the MCCID game so that we can combine our strengths, resources and wisdom.
“We are better together. It’s that simple,” Wolgast emphasizes. “We need every Martin City business to get involved. We need to hear all voices so that we can make decisions that benefit the entire community and fuel our momentum.”
“We’re making real progress in this area,” adds Barewin. “Recruiting Board members from businesses like KC Running Company, Reno’s Powersports KC, Fishtech Group, and others has expanded our perspective. We want to do even better and draw more participation from industrial businesses and all other corners of our community.”
Barewin singles out Great Plains Drilling as a prime example of what it will take for the MCCID to become all it can be. “Great Plains has been here for decades and just recently started coming to MCCID meetings. We’re so glad to have them. We want to learn from what they’ve learned in Martin City. That’s how we get smarter and better as a guiding force in the community.”
Ziegler also believes participation is critical in addition to bringing more businesses to our community. “If we don’t keep attracting new businesses as we chart our future and make plans as a CID, we’ll run the risk of not being able to sustain our amenities or create new ones because we won’t generate enough sales tax revenue to pay for it. Keep in mind, it’s a competitive world out there and businesses have other options than Martin City.”
The MCCID is looking into organizing happy hours and other events to bring businesses together and keep everyone talking, comparing notes and thinking about the possibilities. Meanwhile, the push to draw crowds of visitors to Martin City remains a core component of the MCCID’s work.
“So much of our success as a community depends on attracting visitors who spend money,” explains Ziegler. “We have to keep evolving, capitalizing on our diversity and marketing all of it. I’d like to see more community events, like maybe a farmer’s market or a car show and music and art festivals. But we have to do it in a smart way and make it work for all businesses without accidentally creating obstacles for them. We have to coordinate the right days, hours and times of the year. Our decisions must be good for the collective good.”
Keeping Our House in Order
By all accounts, Martin City’s future is exciting. Everyone’s looking forward with anticipation of becoming the community we are meant to be and sharing more of our unique way of life with the rest of Greater Kansas City. The spotlight is on our sizzle as our reputation rises and more people wake up to what makes us wonderful, and stream into our streets to discover it first-hand. But behind the curtain, the MCCID Board keeps tackling due diligence that isn’t as exciting as infrastructure, beautification and marketing, but just as important.
“Accountability and transparency are high priorities and getting higher,” says Barewin. “We want to tighten-up our fiscal responsibilities as much as possible to eliminate any possibility of anything ever coming into question. We really feel we’re doing things right, we want to do even better and we want people to know it.”
MCCID revenue comes from a property tax assessment on each parcel, and a retail sales tax assessment on businesses within our district boundaries.
Barewin says the idea of an internal audit is popular among Board members and could help develop an even clearer picture of the flow of money in and out of the MCCID, and the relationship between the MCCID and all Martin City businesses. Deeper analysis may also reveal new opportunities for helping local businesses succeed or new resources for solving problems.
“It’s all part of the job,” says Barewin. “If you’re going to pursue the kind of goals we’re pursuing as a CID, you have to keep showing that your house is in order and that you’re doing the best you can with what you have.”
“How do we unify as a well-defined organization with well-defined processes, and optimize our work within the community? That’s a central question,” says Ziegler. “Let’s nail down our role and our methods so that we can keep moving forward without preventable problems getting in our way.”
The MCCID is watching its bottom line closely as the Coronavirus pandemic rattles businesses throughout our community. Sales tax revenues are fluctuating and Board members are waiting to see how recent months shake out before looking into ideas for giving Martin City businesses more help with weathering the storm. It’s hard to tell if there’s anything the MCCID can really do to ease the pain, but the empathy is certainly there already.
“It’s just been so hard on our business owners,” says Wolgast. “We’re all feeling it and sharing the same anxiety as the rest of the world about how to help.”
“Our priority is making everyone feel safe; business owners, customers, everyone,” adds Barewin. “Martin City businesses are doing such a great job of taking restrictions and health guidelines seriously. They’re sending the right message. We know we’re all in this together. We have been since the MCCID was formed, and the pandemic won’t change that. We’ll do whatever it takes to get through this as a community. Our best days are still ahead.”
Martin City CID board meetings are 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. Meeting minutes are posted on our website as soon as they are available.