Soon, though, a few dozen lucky locals will take up residence within strolling distance at 22nd Street, where condos and townhouses will eventually be built.
"People can walk down to 18th and Vine and see some of the greatest jazz acts in the country and then walk back home," says Mike Grube, Bank of America's Kansas City manager, whose employer has cobbled together the financing for the project.
For now, though, not even big-name local stars play the jazz district, never mind national ones. D.C. Bellamy of Kansas City, Kansas, says he hasn't, though his standard showstopper, "If You See Kay," would have sounded perfect when Mayor Kay Barnes and Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael B. Coleman took a bus tour around the neighborhood.
"This is inspirational and visionary," Coleman said in a rich, political baritone as he stood in chigger-infested weeds at 22nd and Vine.
It seemed the mayor was trying to cheer up his Kansas City hosts. His staff tried to pitch softball questions, asking Barnes whether the slow-going, $20 million rehabilitation of 18th and Vine had helped the city's tourism.
"Yes, it has," Barnes said without noticeably blushing. "The synergistic effect, we're now beginning to get it."
It's not clear where she got that idea: We couldn't find anyone in her office or elsewhere in City Hall who could tell us that anyone had even studied whether the district has boosted Kansas City tourism.
So why was the mayor of Columbus in Kansas City? Kansas City Star columnist Steve Penn explains that the two mayors got to talking at a conference, and she made former mayor Emanuel Cleaver's underachieving pet project sound like Bourbon Street. "In fact, the jazz district is fast becoming a prototype for other cities attempting to transform urban decay back into a vibrant setting," Penn gushed on July 12.
As Coleman's bus trundled through the blighted streets east of the jazz district, Coleman might have wondered whether he might find a safer bet. He perked up when someone mentioned the boats. "You have a casino?" he asked.