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18th and Vine District business owner files lawsuit against city

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Posted at 9:56 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 22:56:01-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Blighted properties in the Kansas City, Missouri, Jazz District prove the area has been “purposefully neglected” by the city, according to a recently filed lawsuit that seeks to compel the city to bring the properties up to code.

Henry Service, who owns the Historic Lincoln Building at 1601 East 18th Street, filed the suit July 2 in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging that the condition of the properties violates city and state laws and is the city’s way of “weaponizing their blighted properties” to ultimately own all Jazz District properties.

“As has been the pattern, businesses in the city’s blighted areas fail,” court documents state. “When potentially viable businesses fail, their vacant properties are often sold at a low cost. The said formerly blighted areas then experience gentrification.”

A push to restore these properties was renewed after a building, called the House of Hits and built around 1900, collapsed in March.

Violence in the area over the past year has caused calls for change to resurface.

The city had previously committed more than $27 million to revitalize the Jazz District, but only $7 million has been spent so far, Councilwoman Melissa Robinson previously told KSHB 41 News.

Court documents also allege that the city collects tax credits from the buildings, which are “maintained in an historic district,” but business owners of surrounding properties don’t benefit from those historical designations.

RELATED: Funding stalled to address 18th and Vine District blight

Additionally, the ability for business and property owners to develop a community-improvement district (CID) “rests on the city’s willingness to develop and make safe its own properties,” the suit alleged.

Service also hopes to compel the city to “disgorge all the money that is has been given by the federal government, to develop, make safe, repair, maintain or otherwise make safe, the building in the Jazz District and specifically on Vine Street and, to compensate the businesses on Vine Street for the city’s failure to follow the law.”

KSHB 41 News has reached out to the city for a response to the lawsuit, but has yet to receive a response.