District Manager Emphasizes Participation as Key to Continued Progress
Like many neighborhoods in the Kansas City area, change in Martin City is rather unpredictable these days. Uncertainty in the economy is probably the biggest wild card, as the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID) maps out opportunities, and manages key services and support in the year ahead. All things considered, progress is outweighing setbacks in our neighborhood, and there’s a growing feeling of momentum. MCCID District Manager Vickie Wolgast says the determination of community leaders combined with the participation of more businesses is giving us a persistent push forward.
“Many businesses have worked hard to make our neighborhood what it is today, and we know it can be even better if we continue making steady progress carefully,” says Wolgast, walking with us along the sidewalk on 135th Street. “We are all in this together, and the more businesses that get in the game, the more we can help the neighborhood we all love.”
Building on Changing Times.
The end of Martin City Coffee and Penny’s Bakery was a painful bump in the road recently, but the silver lining holds real promise. Martin City Coffee’s long time manager, Phil Stegner, is continuing the old coffee shop’s culinary tradition in his new business, P.S. Coffee & Drive-Thru, opening inside the old bakery building.
And we’ll soon officially welcome Taqueria Dos de Oros into the District after it remodels the old coffee shop and moves in. Meanwhile, Martin City Coffee’s former owners are planning a 14-unit retail mall right across the street.
Our popular hometown newspaper, The Martin City Telegraph, recently expanded — four inches to be exact, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers moved into the Stateline Shops area. Eagles Gymnastics employee Janet Anson took ownership of the business and continues to build on its unrivaled reputation spanning generations of local families.
The Sharper Edge changed ownership too, but there was no interruption in the delivery of its core product, garden shop operations, or the availability of those iconic statues on the patio that help shape the character of our ‘downtown.’ Martin City Brewing Company marked the first anniversary of its Coast to Coast Pub, and Anthem Coffee Imports expanded to take over most of the space inside the huge warehouse building it now owns.
The list of businesses that came, went, or repositioned in the past year goes on. But, perhaps the biggest news was the long awaited sale of the dormant Sutherland’s property on the southwest corner of 135th & Holmes Road, and the cleanup of the old paintball property across the street. A development company scooped up both properties but has not yet decided what to do with them. It’s been years since either property was active, so we are grateful for the change, even if it’s slow.
Martin City is becoming an even better place to live, and with more room. Construction of Forest Ridge Villas is almost complete, marking the first major expansion of residential opportunities in years. Nearly 200 premium apartments are leasing to people excited about having hometown brands like Margarita’s Amigos and Jack Stack Barbecue as next door neighbors.
There are rumors about more apartment projects in the works, but nothing concrete, yet.
“More people are waking up to the appeal of Martin City as an attractive place to live, work, and play,” says Wolgast. “Our community is walkable, bike-friendly, and ideally located within Greater Kansas City. We’re drawing more attention, and the MCCID is very helpful in providing guidance to new businesses looking to move into the neighborhood.”
Developing Infrastructure and Maintaining Services.
In terms of infrastructure supporting the growth of Martin City and the quality of life we share, it’s fair to say that MCCID’s highest priority continues to be the planned overhaul of Holmes Road. The pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the project’s momentum as work at KCMO City Hall backed up and budgets tightened. The City informed the MCCID last year that the design phase of Holmes, everything from sidewalks and bike lanes, to curbs, street lights and gutters, are complete. But the construction process is moving slower than expected, and it’s hard to tell if City crews will break ground this year as hoped.
“All we can do as the MCCID at this point is keep the pressure on,” says Wolgast. “City leaders know we’re impatient and the Holmes project is long overdue. We’ll keep working to get it going as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, conversations are also underway for improving Oak Street extending south from 135th Street, where several industrial businesses are located. The MCCID is working closely 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,” says Wolgast. “The MCCID realizes we need to move the entire community forward, including Holmes Road, Oak Street, and others.”
In 2023, the KCPD will continue watching over our neighborhood during the day with Community Interaction Officers Aaron Whitehead and 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.
The MCCID has also funded the installation of traffic cameras and license plate readers, strategically located at 135th Street and Holmes Road, and 135th and Inverness Drive/Washington Avenue.
“The devices are a deterrent. Knowing they’re there should make thieves and other criminals think twice because escaping detection will be extremely difficult,” says Major James Buck, Commander of Kansas City’s South Patrol, which includes Martin City. “Cameras and plate readers also speed up response times when a crime has occurred, which can make or break an investigation in some cases.”
American Companies, a Martin City business headquartered on Holmes Road will keep sweeping primary streets monthly in 2023. (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 the Martin City Community Improvement District’s boundaries and greets visitors coming from all directions is a hot topic, according to Wolgast. She’s formed a committee of MCCID Board members and representatives from other local businesses to help decide how to develop signs and locate them in the best spots.
“We’re working on signage in phases to optimize funding in smaller amounts and ensure consistency. It’s important for local businesses to have a voice in how we go about signage, and we’re now starting to make progress together.”
Growing Events That Strengthen Destination Appeal.
All of us in Martin City were excited to get our legendary Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade back on track in 2022. We’re known for our parade, and fans from across the Kansas City area and beyond poured into our streets to reunite for our biggest community event of the year. Planning is now underway for our 2023 parade set for Sunday March 12 at 2pm with the theme ‘Happy Go Lucky.’
Get involved in the Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade! There are NO ENTRY FEES to participate and it’s a great opportunity to showcase your business, organization, school, or club! Sponsorships are still available too, and worth their weight in gold for those wanting to raise their profile for all of South Kansas City to see in a crowd of thousands. A panel of judges will crown the best parade entries and award $600 in prizes!
The Whiskey Run 5k is planned for the following month on April 16th at 830am. There’s nothing else quite like it anywhere and that’s why it’s helped our community become a popular destination. Hundreds of walkers and runners are expected to fill the streets of Martin City, beginning with a Kid’s Fun Run immediately followed by the main event.
The Whiskey Run 5k is organized by the Martin City Business & Community Association (MCBCA), professionally managed by KC Running Company, and complete with whiskey shots from Lukas Wine & Spirits Superstore and its partners. Every registered participant will receive a Finisher’s Medal and breakfast at a Martin City restaurant! Learn more and get involved!
If the turnout for the 2023 Martin City Holiday Lighting Celebration is anything like last year, it will be the hit of the holiday season! You can expect carolers, treats, Santa, and an exciting countdown to switching on holiday lights.
“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,” Wolgast emphasizes. “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 2023 thanks to people who spoke up.”
Plenty of Opportunities to Get Involved.
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 four easy ways your business can pitch in.
1. Attend MCCID Board Meetings. 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.
2. Mix and mingle at MCCID Happy Hours. These events have become very popular as welcome opportunities for local businesses to get to know each other, compare notes, and have fun. Attendance keeps growing. Join us!
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 Wolgast to find out how to sign up at (816) 308-1023 or email her at [email protected].
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 Wolgast to find out how to sign up at (816) 308-1023 or email her at [email protected].
“Martin City is on track and our future looks bright,” says Wolgast, reflecting on nearly five years as District Manager. “But we really need all the help we can get as we tackle infrastructure projects, develop community services, and forge marketing strategies. Now is the perfect time to take ownership and embrace your role in Martin City.”