By Kevin Collison, CityScene KC (Aug. 12, 2019)
The Quality Hill neighborhood finally has its old-fashioned street lamps in action again thanks to a partnership between the city and a private fundraising effort led by the Downtown Council (DTC).
The leafy neighborhood of brick homes and apartments on the west side of Downtown had been increasingly in the dark as is distinctive street lamps failed or broke over the past decade. The firm that redeveloped the historic neighborhood in the 1980s no longer owned most of the properties. That left a fractured ownership situation with no one taking responsibility for maintaining its 120 street lamps.
“This has been a 30-year problem about ownership and maintenance and (electric) power,” said Sean O’Byrne, vice president of the DTC. “As the lights came off line, we tried to find a permanent solution and we approached the city manager about what needed to be done.
City Manager Troy Schulte agreed to have the city take over repair, maintenance and operation of the street lamps, but only if private groups raised $50,000 toward the $350,000 cost. The city is covering the rest.
Schulte said the city was unaware the Quality Hill street lamps had been privately operated before the problems arose. He said assuming responsibility for the existing street lamps was a less costly option than installing conventional streetlights.
“The residents needed reliable pedestrian lighting and we didn’t need to put in more expensive street lighting,” he said.
Schulte credited Jared Campbell, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, for his persistence in solving the lighting problem.
“It’s been an issue we’ve been working on for a long time driven by residents of Quality Hill working with the DNA,” Campbell said.
“It was stop and start for awhile, but thanks to Troy we put together a commitment to get them all back in working order and have the city take over ongoing maintenance.”
O’Byrne said part of the $50,000 in private match funding came from the Downtown Council Community Improvement District and the 11th Street Tax Increment Financing District.
The rest was raised with contributions from property owners.
“Work is underway, but the majority of lights are back on,” O’Byrne said. “It’s a great solution for a 30-year problem and the city has been great to work with.”
Campbell said Quality Hill residents are pleased their streets and sidewalks are illuminated again at night.
“It’s brighter and it gives you a feeling of safety and security,” he said.