Founded in 2010, the Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT) is an emerging community development corporation (CDC) that serves Kansas City’s Historic Northeast. Emerging from engagement with an institutional stakeholder group, NEAT has grown in capacity and now also provides facilitation and advocacy for the six neighborhoods in the Historic Northeast. Mattie Rhodes Center (MRC) is NEAT’s fiscal agent and continues to be a key catalyst in NEAT’s sustainability.
MRC was established in 1894 with a $500 bequest from Kansas City native Mattie Florence Rhodes. A constant throughout MRC’s 124-year history has been community service to Kansas City’s most vulnerable populations, often those living in extreme poverty and who have had barriers to self-sufficiency, most recently due to language and cultural differences. MRC’s main work is to enrich the lives of individuals, families, and communities in a respectful, multicultural environment. The agency envisions a vibrant community where individuals and families are healthy, safe, and have the resources to thrive.
Since expanding its operations in 2000 to the Historic Northeast, MRC has become an anchor for the community, offering a comprehensive array of social services that includes: youth development, mental health counseling, family violence prevention & intervention programing, substance abuse counseling, health & wellness, cultural arts, and advocacy. MRC’s foray into community development has been progressive, beginning with providing individual services to neighborhood residents and culminating where it is today with providing infrastructural support to NEAT.
In 2010, Greater Kansas City LISC turned its attention to the Historic Northeast, building upon its Neighborhoods Now program and its relationship with the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood. Community investors see the Northeast as an important asset to the city. Its close location to downtown has historically made it a sought out destination, now worthy of redevelopment and investment. Unlike much of the east side of Kansas City to the south, the Northeast still has most of its urban fabric intact, which increases its potential outcomes as far as redevelopment is concerned. Having recognized the value in doing so, LISC coordinated local organizations to meet to see what could be done to leverage the Historic Northeast’s assets to strengthen this community. During the ensuing years, NEAT endeavored to define itself in a way that was relevant to the needs of the neighborhoods and addressed issues identified by community-wide stakeholders. MRC secured money from LISC for the examination of NEAT as an entity that could ultimately sustain itself. A paid contractor led a process of information gathering, analysis, and synthesis. The data collected by the contractor was synthesized in to the NEAT Action Plan. Four issues emerged from this document that are identified as the Community Action Plan:
- public safety
- commercial and residential development
- economic development
Using the NEAT Action Plan and Community Action Plan as its basis, MRC created a Scope of Services, and, in 2015, LISC and MRC approached the City of Kansas City (KCMO) to advocate for funding for NEAT. MRC formally accepted the role of a “backbone” entity. During its inception and continuing through to today, MRC invests significant uncompensated staff time and financial resources in sustaining NEAT. A partnership between LISC and KCMO emerged to provide funding for an organizational Director, with $300,000 committed over three years. NEAT is now in its second three year cycle of funding.
Early in 2017, NEAT’s Action Plan and Scope of Services documents played a crucial role in the creation of an Implementation Plan that identified four relevant impact areas, with goals, strategies, and milestones to be met. These four impact areas identified include:
- neighborhood redevelopment and stabilization
- community financial prosperity
- economic development
- community advocacy.
The Implementation Plan outlines how NEAT as an organization will be realized, what long-term, far-reaching agenda will be accomplished, and what smaller, neighborhood-focused goals will be met.
Currently, the NEAT Director, with support of MRC, is addressing the formation of the new 501c3 board of directors. It was decided that NEAT should gain 501c3 status in order for NEAT to define itself as a CDC with capacity for community development currently not possible through MRC. 501c3 status is necessary for eligibility for NEAT to receive funding from foundations and government entities separate from MRC. MRC and NEAT are closely aligned and are in tandem; MRC has a position on the new NEAT 501c3 board of directors.
Most recently, NEAT has received funding through KCMO from Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) CDBG HOME program. Plans are to build a new single family house in the Indian Mound neighborhood. This will be the first single family house to be built in several decades in the Historic Northeast. The house will be sold to a family that meets HUD’s requirements for affordable housing. With this project, NEAT implements its strategy to provide safe, quality, affordable housing to the residents of the Historic Northeast.