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Argentine

A half century ago, Argentine was home to railroad and meat-packing workers. The packing plants are gone now, and higher wages and people's desire for new homes sent the railroad families to communities south and west. But railroad tracks still cut through Argentine's northern edge, and north/south 69 Highway slices off its eastern side. The isolation remains, leaving Argentine a familiar name to metro citizens who likely don't know how to get there. You don't just "run into" the Argentine neighborhood. The best way is to take 7th Street Trafficway north to Metropolitan Avenue, then turn west. Argentine roughly begins at South 12th Street and Metropolitan, stretching to South 42nd Street on the west end. A few blocks north of Metropolitan is Strong Avenue, Argentine's main drag and decades ago its downtown. There's still a bit of commercial activity for roughly a two-mile stretch, enhancing the neighborhood's small-town feel; a large grocery store, post office, and bank, and clusters of one-, two-, and three-story storefronts beckon pedestrians more than they do cars. Reich's, "a drinking establishment" that first opened in 1934, draws neighborhood residents for its Friday karaoke night. El Chamaco Felix, a Mexican bakery, caters to the Latinos who make up a large part of the community, especially on its eastern side. Jalisco's Mexican Food, at the eastern end of Strong, draws patrons from all ethnic groups. Across the street from Jalisco's is Mickey's Surplus, a man's kind of store with aisles filled with Army surplus goods, hunting and fishing items, and a large selection of work clothes, including Kansas City's best line of motorcycle jackets.

Residential blocks hug Strong Avenue from the south. The houses range from tiny one-bedroom frames to a few large Victorians, all in various stages of deterioration and renovation; the large lots near Ruby Park have attracted some new housing. There've been mini-bursts of new development in the past, but nothing sustained. Remarkably, the community has hung on, an island of potential -- think Westport before its commercial onslaught -- that with a little attention, foresight, and planning from Kansas City, Kansas' city hall could attract the investment needed for long-term stability.

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