Independence Mayor Don Reimal, along with city officials from public works, community development and economic development, answered the following questions surrounding past, present and future progress across Independence.
What do you think qualified as the biggest sign of progress in Independence during 2010?
Progress requires and reflects a spirit of community, of people working together. The overwhelming public support for the renewal of the parks and stormwater sales tax is a tremendous sign of progress. It will allow the city to continue to address new and emerging stormwater concerns and to continue to maintain our park facilities in a manner that enhances the quality of life in the community.
What is the city’s role in helping to fill in vacant retail spaces like Hartman Heritage Center? What efforts have taken place by city staff at that site to date?
Independence has been recognized as a leader when it comes to assisting businesses in the permitting process. We help facilitate new businesses looking to locate here, and we work to meet the needs of existing businesses so that they can thrive. In business areas like Hartman Heritage and others across Independence, we meet with owners and brokers to identify and recruit potential tenants.
What kind of changes and growth should residents expect when the final portion of Little Blue Parkway opens this fall – and when will such changes begin taking place?
The (City) Council recently approved a $9.3 million contract to extend the Little Blue Parkway almost two miles from Truman Road to Bundschu Road. This will be completed in 2011. When completed, the entire north-south route will reach seven miles from 39th Street to U.S. 24, linking four major roadways: U.S. 40, Interstate 70, Missouri 78 and U.S. 24.
The Little Blue Parkway will open the Little Blue River valley for a variety of development types, including residential, commercial and office space developments. For example, a new elementary school for the Independence School District is in the planning stages on Jackson Drive south of Missouri 78.
How does the city balance revitalizing areas of western Independence with upcoming growth in eastern Independence?
Both geographic areas offer a wide range of development opportunities. Community Development and the Economic Development Division will continue to identify funding opportunities from federal, state and private resources to meet gaps in development. These include increased funding for foreclosure mitigation, enhanced job training programs and improved access to weatherization and other energy conservation measures.
The city works continuously to identify development opportunities in the community. Staff meet with Independence EDC, developers and neighborhood groups to identify market opportunities. Revitalization and new growth offer different potentials but are assisted equally to achieve the result desired by the community.
What progress should Independence residents look for in 2011?
Continued emphasis on new development and redevelopment aimed at stimulating private reinvestment are the cornerstones for the future of Independence.
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The Ennovation Center is transforming the former Independence Regional Health Center into an incubator for businesses trying to get a start in today’s trying economy. The Ennovation Center provides companies with the facilities and support they would not be able to afford on their own. Incubator graduates have a higher success rate long term than businesses that try to go it alone.
The Fairmount-Carlisle 353 tax abatement program is in the process of revitalizing neighborhoods in northwest Independence. The 353 plan offers residents an incentive to rehabilitate their homes by offering tax breaks. Between 2007 and 2010, there were 121 properties approved for abatement. And, there are currently more than 160 participants proceeding with repairs. Those numbers translate into $3,725,786 in investments into Independence neighborhoods.