Jude Christensen said he was “tickled to death” to see a vacant apartment building in his neighborhood come down Monday morning.

Jude Christensen said he was “tickled to death” to see a vacant apartment building in his neighborhood come down Monday morning.

“It’s going to be an improvement to the community. I’m looking forward to that. I think that’s what we need is single-family dwellings in this area,” said Christensen, who has lived across the street from the former apartment building at 710 S. Overton Ave. for 13 years.

Christensen’s companion, Fannie Mae Turner, has lived in the home since 1951.

“It was a happy day for me,” Turner said. “I am very happy. It was just a nuisance.”  

The demolition of a vacant apartment building Monday morning represented a symbol of hope in western Independence.  

Community partners who make up the nonprofit organization 12 Blocks West gathered at 710 S. Overton Ave. and witnessed the demolition of a three-story, 12-unit vacant, foreclosed apartment building. Independence School District officials called the demolition overdue, adding that the building had created safety and security concerns for neighboring residents.

“It was really exciting to see this condemned, abandoned apartment building be razed,” said Jim Hinson, superintendent of the Independence School District and president of the 12 Blocks West board of directors, adding that “a tremendous amount of time” has gone into the nonprofit organization since its effort started nearly 15 months ago.

In place of the former building, two single-family homes will be constructed for resale to an income-qualified homeowner. A blighted and foreclosed apartment building also exists at 9701 E. U.S. 24, just west of the demolition site. In that building, seven apartment units will be created to benefit households that are at or below 50 percent of the median income.

The project will take about seven months for completion, Hinson said. Both components include a total of $581,100 in Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars, and developer Jim Pollard also has contributed funds. Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, authorized through the federal government’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, aim to redevelop foreclosed, vacant and abandoned residential properties.  

“It’s great partnership with public and private money,” Hinson said. “It’s a message of hope and promise, but at the same time, the goal is to listen to the neighbors. What do they need in the area, and how can 12 Blocks West work in their best interest?”

At the 12 Blocks West board meeting in January, members plan to discuss future projects, Hinson said. He said the board of directors also plans to continue its neighborhood meetings in the Overton area.

Plans are still under way for presenting a memorandum of understanding to each entity interested in participating with 12 Blocks West because many different organizations and entities are involved in western Independence clean-up efforts.

“Hopefully, that is going to be completed in the very near future,” Hinson said, “but right now, it’s still in the works.”

Independence City Council District 1 Member Marcie Gragg called the demolition “a defining moment of transformation that we’re going to see, particularly in northwestern Independence.”

“I think this is the first step and the first project out of the ground,” said Gragg, adding the housing improvements will be highly visible and will draw neighbors together through beautification of the neighborhood and building a sense of community.

According to Gragg, “12 Blocks West” mainly describes western Independence, the district she represents. Though the project’s area isn’t necessarily defined by one geographic description, Gragg said, 12 Blocks West aims to revitalize the 12 blocks west of the Harry S. Truman Home visitors center at 223 N. Main St.

“We know now that one organization alone cannot revitalize a neighborhood, whether it’s western Independence or another area,” Gragg said. “The point is to try to pool all of resources together and to accomplish something greater than any of us can on our own.

“It’s not just about building two new homes and rehabbing some multifamily units. It’s really about rebuilding a whole neighborhood.”