KANSAS CITY, Kan. - As Kansas City gears up for a racing weekend, the Kansas Speedway serves as a symbol to the renaissance of Wyandotte County. What began about a decade ago continued to flourish under Mayor Joe Reardon for eight years.
He steps down in a few days and looks back on his time, the progress KCK and Wyandotte County have made and the barriers that still need broken.
"I think we've raised the stature of this city," Reardon said -- smiling in a conference room at city hall. "I am proud of that."
Since the Legends and Speedway development, Reardon took the task of topping success the county hadn't seen in decades.
"We didn't even have a department store for decades!" he laughed.
The life-long Kansas City, Kan., resident watched his father serve as mayor for 12 years, admiring but not wanting to follow in his foot steps.
"He's probably laughing ... saying 'I told you so,'" Reardon joked.
During Reardon's time, KCK and Wyandotte County have seen significant growth and change including the stadium for Sporting KC, Cerner's new offices, rapid development surrounding KU Med and the 39th Street corridor. But maybe the toughest development came on 18th Street.
"When you say you're going to build a 45,000 square foot grocery store on 18th street and I-70, believe me there were a lot of doubters!" Reardon said.
Almost five years later, that grocery store and the surrounding area are flourishing. It has become an oasis in a neighborhood that was nearly a food desert.
There is still progress to be made. The EPA building still sits empty downtown. Reardon said the privately-owned building is entertaining some new tenants but still pay property taxes. Finding a new tenant for such a large building, he said, will take time.
And even though crime has fallen to a thirty-year low and continues to fall, Reardon claims a misconception of a crime-ridden county does hold the county back.
"But you know what, facts matter," he said. "We're developing a narrative because of what we're doing factually!"
Reardon endorsed the incoming mayor, Mark Holland, who will be sworn in next week. Reardon believes Holland can keep this momentum going.