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This month, our country boisterously demonstrated its deep division of culture, race and class. Hims and hers, haves and have-nots, us and them . . . no one is absolved. Everything we do at LISC is defined, in some way, by this dynamic. To work alongside our neighborhood residents and develop sustainable programs, one must confront the issue of divisiveness head on. I am humbled each day by the opportunity to learn just a little more about this chasm in our humanity, and the bridges that can be built to close it.
This year, LISC has helped to launch two major initiatives in response to the demand by the community for more equitable resources. As Kansas City shines from its progress in places like the Crossroads, River Market and The Legends, our distressed neighborhoods still struggle for a level of investment that can spur transformative market activity. With our partners, LISC is striving to improve that condition. The Catalytic Urban Predevelopment Fund is a capital resource made possible by a public, private, philanthropic partnership committed to putting finances where they are needed most - at the predevelopment stage of some of the most challenging real estate projects. As you will read in the accompanying story, five projects have already received this injection to afford those activities that can usually only be completed if you have sufficient cash on-hand and a flexible timetable. The Kansas City Catalytic Urban Redevelopment (KC-CUR) Initiative is a strategy to focus public, private and philanthropic investments east of Troost Avenue to cultivate market opportunities and empower the people who live and work in those communities. Both initiatives require keen attention on co-creating solutions with residents and insuring that resources benefit the hardest to reach.
As LISC and its partners move forward, we wrestle with the reality of our community’s capital absorption capacity — the ability to make effective use of the financial capital we supply. What we must keep in mind is the heavy lift it requires to build and sustain that capacity on the ground. LISC meets new potential beneficiaries every week who share their vision for revitalized buildings and repurposed land. But only a handful so far have benefited from our predevelopment investments. Some are still searching to assemble a financial structure that allows their project to use debt instead of grants to fill financing gaps. Others are reluctant to share their balance sheets because they have been turned down by conventional lenders.
The Predevelopment Fund and KC-CUR are not the panacea to decades of disinvestment. They are foundations and tools that can clear a new path for significant progress. But ultimately, the community must still build those bridges that will connect the resources on one side to be successfully deployed to projects on the other. And eventually, as we do so, the division may disappear so we no longer even need the bridges.
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