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Kansas City has plans for Parade Park Homes amid foreclosure, but how did we get here?

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Jan 17, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As Parade Park’s foreclosure sale approaches in March, a number of residents are feeling uncertain about their future.

After the city’s vote to acquire the property from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in December, residents are unsure about whether or not they will be able to remain at the property they call home.

As multiple “what-ifs” surround the March 11 sale, KSHB 41 wanted to re-trace our steps to find out what led up to this point.

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Carrie Miller has been living at Parade Park for 47 years.

Like Lynn Williams, a resident we spoke to in early January, she began to notice that people were moving out of their units, but no one moving in.

“It really dawned on me,” Miller said. “Hey, we got some problems going on down here. Why are all these units empty?”

According to HUD, there are 166 occupied units out of 510 total as of Jan. 17. This number — which sat at 189 on Jan. 3 — has decreased within two weeks.

“The difference comes from households that were in the process of settling their accounts with the property, but had not yet officially vacated their unit and since we last reported, have now officially determined to leave the property lowering the number,” a HUD spokesperson said.

The vacancies are not only statistically clear, but they’re also visually apparent.

Throughout the neighborhood, there are unoccupied units with boarded-up doors right next door to each other, as well as lived-in, occupied units mixed in between.

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Multiple vacant units in Parade Park are boarded up, with occupied units mixed in between.

Miller says she learned the majority of people moving out of units weren’t paying their carrying charges, which was essentially the rent each resident owed the co-op.

As years went by, conditions deteriorated and inflation increased, the unpaid carrying charges no longer reflected the rising costs necessary to pay for proper upkeep.

“Your rent has to increase to support the expenses that you have,” said Emmet Pierson Jr., the CEO and president of Community Builders of Kansas City, an urban core developer in the Kansas City area. “You cannot keep rent or carrying charges lower and expect the same quality of service by paying less.”

Harrietta Harris is a long-time resident of Parade Park and the former president of the co-op’s board.

The board dissolved after failing to register as a nonprofit with the state, something Harris says wasn't intentional.

"We had no way of paying an attorney, getting an attorney or doing any of the things we needed to do to keep it going as a co-op," she said.

Harris says the intention behind the co-op's operations was to keep rent affordable so people could make any personal renovations to their individual units themselves.

“This unit right here, it cost me $767 a month,” Harris said. “Where else can you pay rent for $767 a month?”

Her fear is that with redevelopment, units will no longer be affordable, as rent will inevitably increase to accommodate for the property’s poor conditions.

“It didn’t have to be this way; it didn’t have to be wiped out like this,” Harris said.

She believes the property’s dissolution was gradual and says she pushed for rehabilitation of the property throughout her term, which began in March 2022.

“For it to still be a co-op, Black-owned and operated, yes, that is my dream,” Harris said.

Harris said this goal is what motivated her actions throughout her term, regardless of any pushback she got from other residents.

"I wasn’t the most popular person in Parade Park," Harris said. "But popularity don't mean that much to me. My thing is what's right."

Because of the apartment’s proximity to downtown Kansas City, 18th and Vine, and the ballpark district, she believes Parade Park is an ideal target for gentrification.

Her worst case scenario: Parade Park being nothing but a memory.

“They said, ‘Well, we’ll still have a place for Parade Park,” she said. “Like what, a little plaque on a little curb or something saying, ‘This is where it used to be?’ Not ‘this is where it is, this is where Black people have managed and kept all those years. No, it’s not going to be the same.”

While she is not certain the complex will remain the same, other residents like Miller are optimistic for changes that reflected their hopes for redevelopment.

One of the first attempts to redevelop Parade Park happened with The Dalmark Group.

Despite this attempt ending in a lawsuit in 2016, Emmet Pierson Jr. — who was involved with the first project — returned to try again with his company, Community Builders of Kansas City, in June 2022.

“We looked at a mixed income, mixed use, commercial as well, site to reposition Parade Park,” Pierson Jr. said.

He says he pursued this project after multiple residents approached him about redeveloping Parade Park, a place with personal ties to his family.

“My wife grew up in Parade Park — her father, mother, brother, grandmother,” he said. “Everybody in her family, literally, was a Parade Park resident.”

Community Builders has developed a number of properties throughout the Kansas City area, including multiple Sun Fresh Markets and several other commercial and residential properties.

“We’re the largest minority-led, economic engine in Kansas City’s urban core,” Pierson Jr. said. “We’re always open to dialogue, we’re also open to lend our expertise.”

That’s what he was hoping to do with Parade Park, but Miller says group infighting — particularly in residential meetings — led to the board not moving forward with Community Builders as a developer.

“You could come home shattered when you leave one of them meetings,” Miller said.

Harris says her stance against redevelopment had to do with wanting residents to maintain their equity through shares in the co-op, something that is no longer possible with the co-op being dissolved and managed by HUD.

“Their equity was to buy a share in the co-op, and what they also didn't recognize is that they also had a share in those vacant, non-performing units as well,” Pierson Jr. said.

Miller says the misunderstanding over shares is still an issue for older residents who aren’t as up to date what is happening with Parade Park.

“Some of our seniors, they really believe they still have equity in this place,” Miller said.

Miller says she’s aware of her age, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking an interest in her community, especially in recent years.

“I’m not old and set in my ways, I can transform,” Miller said.

Her hope was that Community Builders could have been a part of that transformation, but she’s still optimistic for the future and is making peace with the cards she’s been dealt — both literally and figuratively.

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“I worked for Hallmark Cards for 36 years not to end up in a predicament that I’m in now,” Miller said as she pointed out her card collection.

As for March's foreclosure sale, she's ready.

“Imma skip down to the courthouse," she said