‘Yarn bombing,’ gardens and other ideas for a Cleveland Avenue corridor in Kansas City

posted on February 3, 2017 4:26pm

By: Mark Davis, The Kansas City Star

Inside the Linwood YMCA Saturday, a video screen showed color sprouting on light poles and crosswalks along a stretch of Cleveland Avenue near a temporary bike repair shop and a community garden.

This was how Cleveland Avenue between 27th and 31st streets looked to five students from Michigan State University. They’ve been studying the area in conjunction with a technical assistant on brownfields development working with Kansas State University.

On Saturday, they shared those visions and listened to ideas from residents and community leaders of the area during a mid-day session.

It was part of an expanding redevelopment effort anchored by one group’s plans to assemble properties and build single family homes in the area.

One idea: “Yarn bombing,” said Pat Crawford, a Kansas City native who works with those students as associate director of the School of Planning, Design and Construction at Michigan State. She described yarn bombing as a European thing starting to take hold in the United States.

“A community gets together and they decide they’re going to bomb an area with yarn,” Crawford said to about 20 attendees. “They wrap things — they come up with patterns — light poles or power poles. The whole area is this colorful strip.”

Or, she said, “celebrate the crosswalks” with paint, perhaps making one look like piano keys. There were digital displays and poster boards showing just what Crawford and her students had envisioned.

“It’s not permanent. At some point it’s going to come down. You can do it again. You can do something else,” Crawford said.

More lasting ideas circled as well, such as a pop-up bicycle repair shop or a community garden that could fill a lot or two until someone buys it for a house or business.

The Michigan State students also weighed ideas for an old school at the north end of the Cleveland corridor they studied.

“We’re thinking it could be a multiuse building. It could be used for senior living, event space, apartments, office space,” said Stephanie Onwenu, one of two students who came to Kansas City with Crawford to present the ideas.

Saturday’s presentation grew from a November meeting at which community leaders shared their ideas and sense of what Cleveland Avenue should become. It was another step to propel redevelopment within a larger area that city studies in 2002 and 2011 showed were in need of help.

“Cleveland is a fairly quiet area,” said Sabine Martin, whose CTOR Solutions works with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Technical Assistance for Brownfields program at Kansas State. “So biking could be an option, bike lanes.”

These were ideas, not plans. No timetable is in place, certainly not for larger redevelopment efforts and needed sidewalk repairs.

“The little bitty things,” Sabine said, “you could do that this afternoon.”

Not that residents of the Cleveland corridor have been sitting idle. Saturday’s session grew out of Urban Success’s plans to build housing in the South Roundtop Neighborhood.

The group’s Resurrection Village project has been assembling properties for construction of two dozen or more single family homes and had gotten attention of the EPA’s brownfields program.

A group of students from the University of Missouri-Kansas City are ready to help Urban Success, providing feasibility analysis and information on tax credits and financial options. Urban Success is one of six projects in the Kansas City area that is part of an inter-disciplinary course at UMKC this spring.

Urban Success has been funded in part from a settlement over gasoline fumes and leaks in the area.