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The KCPD's East Campus development rolls ahead – over a few angry holdouts

Why the KCPD's East Campus development isn't sitting well at 27th and Prospect.



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The effort ultimately failed, but the venom behind it was real. The unlikely genre of anti-development hip-hop had a hit this year with a song uploaded to the site Among the anonymous rapper's rhymes: Uncle Tom Jermaine Reed?/Respect ain't free/Brooklyn to Prospect when you on your knees/Smiling after cheese/Lap dog swallowing KCPD's seeds.

"People will try to do and say and be mali­cious and evil as much as they can," Reed says. "But the reality of it is, it's not about me. At the end of the day, we as a community have to move forward, and that's exactly what I plan to do."

Like most places thought to be dangerous, the blocks around 27th and Prospect are safer than their reputation suggests. On this Thursday evening in early August, the workday is over. But few have come home to this neighborhood.

Most of the homes here that weren't already abandoned are empty now. Windows that haven't been boarded up are busted open. Except for the occasional passing of cars along 27th Street, it's quiet. A basketball's bounce echoes from somewhere not far off, and there's the arhythmic rattle of an abandoned house's dangling aluminum siding, brushed by a breeze. Occasionally, a police siren breaks the silence.

City officials estimate that KC now owns 85 percent of the homes in this four-block area. They're negotiating to pick up the rest. For now, the blocks exist in near lifelessness: stray cats wandering the streets, an old couch rotting on somebody's former porch, a tree limb fallen over a sidewalk that hardly anybody walks anymore. But this time next year, officials believe, work will be well under way to put 28,000 square feet of police station and 76,000 square feet of crime lab right here. That means, they say, 1,140 jobs during the project's construction.

Look around, though, and there's still living going on here, cars still parked out front here and there, homes still held together by maintenance and affection. At 2611 Brooklyn, Ameena Powell has been a fierce holdout. "Recall Reed" signs still dot her property, even as several of her immediate neighbors' homes have been sold to the city and boarded up.

Powell appears to be the driving force behind and much of the effort organized against the new facility. Her real-estate business's Twitter account, @TheProducersGrp, originally dedicated to promoting the sale of distressed properties (often for $15,000 or less), has recently taken to spamming corporations and celebrities to draw attention to the cause. "Help us get the word out. Fight eminent domain," she tweeted at Rick Santorum, Perez Hilton, Kim Kardashian, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, and a parody Mitt Romney account. (She didn't respond to phone messages from The Pitch and wasn't home when a reporter stopped by.)

Others in the area are eager to talk but are reluctant to do so on the record. They don't want their names attached to discussion of a contentious political project.

"I'm 73, and I just don't have the energy to fight anymore," explains one resident who has sold to the city and is set to move out in September. Sitting on a folding lawn chair on the home's front porch, the owner talks about the dead bodies that have been discovered in the abandoned houses around here in recent years — one next door, the other two doors down. The owner's greater concern was the illicit nightclub said to have taken over the house at 2625 Wabash. "They have dancers coming in over there, and we can't sleep Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights."

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