With virtually no notice, the center abruptly closed on January 13.
For more than six years, midtown residents had hauled their empty bottles, cans and paper goods to a fenced-in area near 48th Street and Forest Avenue. But in November, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which owns the lot that housed that recycling center, needed the area for a redevelopment effort.
So Bridging the Gap, which operates the citys recycling sites, started searching for a new place to set up shop. Though it wasn't an ideal location, the Community Development Corporation of Kansas City offered up the parking lot at Metro Plaza, a shopping center it manages on East 63rd Street.
Kevin Chafin, community recycling center coordinator for Bridging the Gap, says the CDC-KC and its president, Bill Threatt, welcomed the environmental facility. Neighborhood residents and the Metro Plaza's businesses were another matter.
With its chain-link fence awkwardly roping off part of the parking lot for a handful of green Dumpsters, the recycling center didnt enhance the areas aesthetics.
The customers of the businesses and the businesses were not comfortable with what they saw when we moved in, Chafin says. But the relocation from the other place was on very short notice, and we were not afforded the luxury of time to work with the neighborhood folks to prepare for our move.
Given the opportunity to stabilize in that location it would have gotten a lot better-looking, he adds. But we were not given that opportunity.
Instead, Chafin says, the CDC-KC told Bridging the Gap just a few weeks after opening that a Metro Plaza tenant was threatening to break its lease if the recycling center didnt move.
That business was the Super Thriftway, a grocery store operated by Overland Park-based M-Y Foods Inc. The Pitch called M-Y President Bill McAvoy several times, but he never returned the messages. Eventually, however, a company finance officer (who declined to be named) told us that M-Y Foods was upset that the company wasn't consulted by the CDC-KC and considered the recycling area a violation of its contract.
Were all for recycling, but I dont think any grocery operation in town wants four dumpsters in their parking lot, the M-Y official says. Right away, the community was outraged.
When contacted by The Pitch, CDC-KC President Bill Threatt said his staff had been handling the issue and he would call back when he had more information about the resolution of the recycling dust-up. He never did.
Chafin says Bridging the Gap was grateful that the CDC-KC came to some kind of agreement with the aggrieved tenant so the recycling center wouldnt be closed during the busiest time of year before and after Christmas.
Still, midtown recyclers will have to continue hauling their wares to other metro locations. Despite the growing green ethic among consumers, the recycling center isnt an easy sell to property owners. Bridging the Gap has yet to find any takers for a new site.