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Wal-Mart made some concessions: It would close at midnight, rather than staying open 24 hours, as originally planned. But in September, after nine months of wrangling, Wal-Mart — not an entity that usually forfeits such battles — scrapped its plans for the site following the school district's announcement that it would not sell to the corporate giant.
"Our objection was less about Wal-Mart than I think it appeared on the surface," says Tiffany Moore, president of the Armour Hills Homes Association, which opposed the Bingham plan. "But I think the takeaway is relatively straightforward: If Waldo neighborhoods remain engaged and informed and have strong leaders, we can ensure that the area will continue to be a great place to live, work, play."
Lewellen says he ended up neutral on the topic of Wal-Mart, but he wants to see Bingham developed. "We're pretty sensitive about the site because it abuts our property line at Lew's," he says. "We've sat here and watched an empty school deteriorate for 10 years, and we think it's holding Waldo back. I believe that once the neighborhood figures out how to develop that property, you'll see Wornall south of 75th Street really take off."
That stretch of Wornall, which KCUR 89.3 personality Walt Bodine once famously dubbed "the ugliest street in the world," is a gauntlet of automotive shops, fast-food chains, tattoo parlors and blue-collar bars. But lately, there's movement afoot there, too.
Local beer aficionado Steve Holle has cobbled together $1.7 million to turn the former Babyland & Kids' Room, at 310 West 79th Street (where that street meets Wornall, along the Trolley Track Trail), into a brewery, beer hall and beer garden called Kansas City Bier Co. It'll open later this year.
And hopes are high in the neighborhood that one of the streetcar-extension proposals under review will bring a new mode of transportation into the area, plus new businesses along its line. "That's the next big conversation," Moore says. "We're advocating strongly for the Main Street and Country Club extensions because those could eventually connect to Waldo."
Imagine that: A modern streetcar running alongside a pedestrian path that 70 years ago was a trolley track, connecting riders to Kansas City's most unlikely entertainment district, a full 70 blocks from downtown. To Botwin, the scenario is the best of both worlds. "I think a challenge for Waldo is to continue to see itself as a contemporary place," she says. "To keep thinking in a forward manner and not get caught up in the nostalgia that can grip older neighborhoods. A little bit of nostalgia is OK. But you've got to keep looking ahead."