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"It was extremely frustrating," Maltbia says. "The state's program didn't take the human pieces into account. You have an elderly lady with a house leaking like a sieve, but workers couldn't get into her basement. We turned to the neighborhood association to get volunteers to clean out the basement. That's something a flat piece of paper can't deal with, but it's the reality for the people who needed it most."
A few weeks after the Troost MAX launched, on New Year's Day 2011, the State Department sent Maltbia to Japan to talk to urban planners there about the Green Impact Zone. She returned to difficult news. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced in February 2011 that it would reduce the zone's weatherization program funding to $2.7 million. The initial grant stipulated that the weatherization needed to be completed by March 2012.
"The state felt the program wasn't advancing fast enough," says Marlene Nagel, MARC's director of community development. "It took us longer to get up and running, but I felt we were making good progress."
Missouri's DNR pulled the program from MARC in September 2011, placing it under the city's auspices. At that time, only 115 homes had been fully weatherized — at a cost of nearly $1.6 million. The Green Impact Zone was suddenly being reframed as a story of unfulfilled potential.
While the weatherization program sputtered, a green-sewer project (using native plants to control storm-water runoff) never got off the ground. A $150,000 feasibility study to build the Climate Sustainability Center (a 217,000-square-foot paean to green space at 47th Street and Troost), which Cleaver had called the "cornerstone" of the zone, didn't advance beyond the report stage. Cleaver says the center "continues to be a priority."
"I continue to look for opportunities for public and private financing for this world-class concept," Cleaver says by e-mail. "And UMKC has begun the process of relocating departments within those buildings to make room for future development."
Still, Kansas City Power & Light installed 2,600 smart meters in homes within the zone as part of its SmartGrid project (a total of 14,000 meters in and around the zone), funded by $24 million in federal funds and its own $24 million investment. (The networked meters help residents track energy usage and are meant to improve efficiency.) KCP&L also dedicated its SmartGrid Innovation Park — a fenced space that houses a lithium-ion battery (it looks like a blue shipping container) capable of storing energy from an adjacent array of solar panels — and an electric-car charging station at 4724 Tracy.
For now, though, black metal bars fence off the SmartGrid Innovation Park. Illustrated signs near the charging station detail the future of smart energy. The lithium-ion battery and the solar panels sit behind the fence visible from an exterior walking path, which winds toward an adjacent substation. But a master lock secures the gate against visitors. This neighborhood might be ready for solar power in the future, but it's not quite ready to leave that technology sitting out in the open.
Last February, construction began on another development in the southeast corner of the zone, the Blue Hills Community Services Center at 5008 Prospect. That same month, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce announced that its Urban Neighborhood Initiative would begin with the Troost Corridor.