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Based on the scarred and trash-strewn landscape at 63rd Street and Prospect, Citadel has a way to go. But Threatt thinks his group deserves congratulations. This project, he says, is far more difficult than the typical shopping-center development. The typical developer, Threatt says, buys empty plots from a single owner and starts leveling the land. But the CDC-KC has had to knock on the doors of more than 150 houses and businesses, negotiate with scores of homeowners and banks, then tear down dozens of structures.
There are only a few properties left to be acquired, a handful of structures left to demolish.
"The risk is over," Threatt says. "They said it couldn't get done, and we've done it."
But that's far from the truth.
ill Threatt is a somber man who speaks with the slow, methodical cadence of a professor lecturing first-year students.
When it comes to the Citadel Plaza, Threatt deflects criticism with indignant certainty of the project's merits and his organization's progress.
Threatt has a long history in housing and public service. He worked for HUD in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As an associate superintendent for the Kansas City, Missouri, School District, he oversaw the security and management of the district's many buildings. He did consulting work for the CDC-KC before he stepped in as president in 2000.
But Threatt and the CDC-KC have some troubled spots on their development records.
In 1988, Threatt was a representative for a development company called 7th Street Investors. That year, the now-defunct Housing and Economic Development Financing Corporation (a nonprofit agency that managed the city's spending of federal housing funds) lent the group $82,000 to renovate two apartment buildings in the 5900 block of Benton Boulevard. The term of the loan was 15 years, but from 1988 to 2003, Threatt's investment group didn't make a single payment. In 2004, taxpayers recovered little more than half the amount when 7th Street Investors paid off $50,000 and the loan was settled.
Later, there were more loan problems. Shortly after he took the reins in 2000, Threatt says, city officials asked the CDC-KC to renovate an apartment building at 2901 East Linwood. The group used $102,000 of the city's federal housing money to buy the building and assess its rehab potential. In August 2004, though, the structure was placed on the city's dangerous-buildings list after neighbors complained about vagrants squatting there.
Nathan Pare, manager of the city's dangerous-buildings department, says that when the city inspected the property, the roof was shot, the foundation was separated and the building was wasting away from years of neglect.
For three years, city officials sent the CDC-KC letters, posted notifications on the structure itself and filed notices with Jackson County. "We never had any feedback from them whatsoever," Pare says of the CDC-KC.
In November, the city tore down the building at a cost to taxpayers of $21,825.
Around the same time that 2901 East Linwood went on the dangerous-buildings list, another CDC-KC property burned.
Carolyn Turner purchased a home on East 61st Street from the CDC-KC for $97,500 in 1999. But the CDC-KC hired a builder — Nelson Construction — that installed the wrong countertops in the kitchen, laid the wrong floor in the downstairs bathroom and hung octagonal windows in square holes.
"I wrote to everybody at CDC, and they kept telling me I need to talk to somebody else," Turner says. "Everyone kept passing the buck."
On July 2, 2004, Turner's son came home to discover that the house was on fire. In 2006, she filed suit against the CDC-KC to recoup the repair costs; according to court documents, an investigator concluded that the fire was linked to improper wiring for the microwave. In December 2007, a judge ordered the CDC-KC to pay Turner $3,300 to fix the exterior of her house.