At podium: Joanne Bussinger, executive director, Blue Hills Community Services. From left to right: Councilmember Scott Wagner, 1st district; Councilmembers Cindy Circo and Michael Brooks, 5th district; Cliff Pouppirt, BHCS director of planning and development; Councilmember Melba Curls, 3rd district; U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th District, Missouri; and Councilmember Jermaine Reed, 3rd district.

At podium: Joanne Bussinger, executive director, Blue Hills Community Services. From left to right: Councilmember Scott Wagner, 1st district; Councilmembers Cindy Circo and Michael Brooks, 5th district; Cliff Pouppirt, BHCS director of planning and development; Councilmember Melba Curls, 3rd district; U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th District, Missouri; and Councilmember Jermaine Reed, 3rd district.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, Blue Hills Community Services held a grand opening for the new Blue Hills Business Center at 5008 Prospect. Nearly 200 people, including elected officials, staff, community leaders and residents enjoyed an open house reception at the newly renovated building, with musical entertainment provided by the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts.

The formerly vacant 14,600-square-foot structure houses a training facility and a small business incubator that already has three tenants — First Response Construction LLC, Abraham Mechanical LLC, and America on the Go Plumbing LLC — all of which did part of the work on the building. Eventually, the offices will house up to 10 small businesses that will receive support and training to help them grow and add employment opportunities for residents in the central city. The center also includes community space that is available for public forums, neighborhood groups and other organizations with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment and kitchen facilities.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II attended the celebration and expressed his hope that the project will spur further investment in the inner city. “We are working to make other developments in this area as exciting as this,” he said. Cleaver also noted that the center is another sign of progress in the Green Impact Zone. “I appreciate the fact that we are saving a community, not rebuilding it.”

The eco-friendly, LEED-certified building is one of several redevelopment initiatives underway along the Prospect Corridor. The project was designed with sustainability in mind. More than 98 percent of the waste generated by construction was reused on the site or recycled. Energy conservation features include 48 solar panels on the roof that provide 10 kilowatts of renewable energy and can feed excess electricity back into the city’s energy grid. A 6,500-gallon water barrel on the back of the building collects rainwater that will provide water for a soon-to-be constructed urban garden. Produce from the garden will be harvested and used by local residents and food pantries. Another unique feature is two electrical vehicle charging stations provided by KCP&L.

The $3.1 million renovation was funded in part through an EnergyWorks KC grant awarded to the city of Kansas City, Mo., as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The Green Impact Zone staff was instrumental in adding funds for this project to the city’s EnergyWorks KC grant application.

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