Westport merchants cook up a comeback plan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new kind of crowd hangs out in the city's Westport entertainment district these days.
A spike in crime a few years ago scared a lot of people away but in the last year, Westport merchants have cooked up a comeback plan.

Seven new businesses, mainly new local foodie spots, have either already opened up or are getting ready to set up shop in Westport.

Kyle Kelly, whose family has owned Kelly's Westport Inn since the 1960s, said that's the biggest business boon the district has seen since the 1980s.

"Pain's a good motivator," Kelly said.

Kelly said customers left in 2008 and 2009 because of new competition from the new Power and Light district, the fall in the economy and a rise in crime.

Violent crime spiked but recently merchants said no more.

"Corrections have been made and are being made," Kelly said. “Cancers have been in the neighborhood and through thorough consideration (we are) much more careful in considering tenants."

Kansas City police agree that crime, especially violent crime, is down and said the new efforts are working.

Security has been stepped up and lights now shine on the entertainment district and patrons at night.

Westport merchants said officers believe the surge in new businesses owners like Laura Norris, who opened Ragazza Deli and Wine bar just seven weeks ago, are unintentional crime fighters.

"We're filling in those pieces around that corner of the Pennsylvania and Westport corner. (We are) more stability for the neighborhood," Norris said.

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