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"That was over 30 years ago," Adams says. "The world has changed since then. And the Northeast definitely has."
Yes and no.
"You can't deny that Independence Avenue went through a long, long period of decline," Bellamaganya says. "But I believe that Kansas City is finally coming to its senses and realizing that the Northeast is a valuable asset that they have allowed to decay — by benign neglect — for decades. But crime statistics are down. Prostitution, too."
"Ron used to live in the Northeast, about 10 years before we bought our house, and he swears that the hooker population has dropped 90 percent," Adams says.
And then there are the schools. "The Kansas City schools have challenges no matter what side of town you're living in," Bellamaganya says. One of his two children is being home-schooled; the other attends a Catholic school in midtown. "There are a lot of carpools among the neighbors," he says.
"It is a quiet neighborhood," says Johnson, who spent two years restoring her 120-year-old house, which was filled "with years of trash and feces." She adds: "I loaded 10 Dumpsters with all the stuff we hauled out of here."
Johnson bought her home for less than $30,000 (a bargain helped by the fact that all the structure's plumbing had long since been ripped out). Today, it looks ready to be photographed for some glossy magazine.
Adams and Megee put their house on two credit cards. It was another Northeast bargain, meaning another fixer-upper. The home had been split up, in the 1980s, into five ugly apartments. Three years after they closed the deal, Megee and Adams are still working on the house; they've already restored it to its original, single-family layout.
"It's the value that's attracting younger homeowners," Bellamaganya says. "You can still find bargains if you're willing to look and willing to do the work. Pendleton Heights is the most desired location right now, but it has the most aggressively active neighborhood association and is well-positioned geographically. What people don't understand is that there are multiple neighborhoods in the Northeast, and each neighborhood is totally different. There's exceptional diversity at every price point."
"I fell in love with the area because it reminded me so much of the neighborhood where I lived in Brooklyn," Fleischman says. "Very diverse, very community-minded, very urban." Poertner, who hosted the March gathering in her solidly constructed home ("The same Italian family lived in it for over 80 years," she says), moved from Brooklyn with her boyfriend several years ago.
"We were visiting friends in Kansas City and we realized that, for the money we were spending on a tiny apartment, we could own our own big house. Bigger than anything we could ever afford in New York. So we moved to Kansas City and bought a house in the Northeast."
Bellamaganya knows right away when a potential client is wrong for the Northeast.
"You have to have a passion for this area," he says. "If you don't, you shouldn't come here. There are still a lot of lifelong residents living here, and I tell people, 'Don't come here if you're on the five-year plan. If you want to fix up a house and move on, don't move here.' "
Back on Poertner's front porch, Fleischman leans back in her rocking chair and whispers conspiratorially: "Come on, don't you want to move here and live near all these wonderful people?"