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The mission of 12 Blocks West is to collaborate with community partners and residents in western Independence, Sugar Creek, and Blue Summit, building upon existing strengths, to promote safe, stable, multi-income neighborhoods where families, schools and businesses thrive.

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Thursday
Dec022010

Independence leaders see a role for revitalization

Examiner.net original article - Sept. 4, 2010

Twelve blocks west of the Truman Home is what most refer to as western Independence. And now that the area is part of the Independence School District, Independence school and civic leaders are coming together to ask themselves how can western Independence be revitalized.

“Independence is a great place to live and work,” said Independence School District Superintendent Jim Hinson. “We are going in the right direction, but it is time to collaborate like we have never collaborated before to make this city even better.”

Members from a variety of city organizations including the city of Independence, the Independence Council for Economic Development, the Truman Heartland Foundation, the Independence Chamber of Commerce, area churches and others joined together Thursday for the Independence Summit 2009.

Hosted by the Independence School District, the goal of the summit was to start talking about how different community organizations can come together to make Independence a more desirable place to live. The idea – 12 Blocks West.

Hinson pointed to the East Lake development project in South Atlanta. A prominent place to live in the early 1900s, the neighborhood fell into disrepair by the 1960s. The South Atlanta East Lake Foundation was formed in 1995 with the purpose of rebuilding the area – an area that was stricken with poverty and crime. Now, an estimated 97 percent of students in the neighborhood graduate from high school, and violent crime has been reduced by 95 percent.

That is the kind of revitalization project that Hinson and other community leaders would like to see happen, starting in western Independence. But the key, Hinson said, is a holistic approach, combining the efforts of many city organizations. Future meetings will be scheduled to discuss the direction Independence wants to go and how revitalization will happen.

“I think the dialogue was productive and healthy,” he said after the meeting. “I think we are launching into a collaborative that will be very positive for our city.”

Pastor Bob Spradling of Maywood Baptist Church said he is excited about the possibilities. He and some church members are already working to revitalize one small neighborhood on Forest Street and sees the potential in a larger project.

“We have a great pool of people and a chance to make a real difference in a portion of our community,” he said. “When that portion is done, we can move onto the next portion. If we can do this with a small group, then the community can do this with far more resources and really change this community.”

Independence City Manager Robert Heacock said he thinks the idea of revitalizing Independence has merit. He said what also needs to happen is for the community to start talking about the city’s successes.

“We need to emphasize the positive values and look at ways to create a sustainable community,” he said. “I think it is fatalistic to think we are at ground zero in western Independence, when we have had tremendous successes. We need to stop asking ourselves what we don’t love about the area, but why people want to come to Independence. We want to accentuate the positive and reinstall that as the true image of Independence.”

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