The Marlborough neighborhood has us believing in small miracles: Best of KC 2019

Hope, sweat, and good intentions are alive in Marlborough. // Photo by Chase Castor.

Our annual Best of Kansas City 2019 issue is out now. Go grab a copy. Alternatively, you can browse the results of the readers’ poll here. The issue also includes a list, compiled and written by The Pitch’s editorial staff, shouting out some of our current favorite things about KC. We’ll be publishing these items online throughout the month of October.

There’s a place in south Kansas City where residents got ahold of a vacant lot and turned in into a hydrangea garden. Where the city solved sewer overflow and runoff problems by creating parks and rain gardens. Where a long-running partnership with a corporate law firm empowers the neighborhood association to take control of decrepit properties and turn them over to buyers with good intentions. Where folks aren’t waiting for the city or some mega-developer to come in and save them. 

Not everything is perfect in Marlborough—not yet. The long-struggling neighborhood (roughly: Gregory Boulevard to 89th Street, Troost Avenue to U.S. 71 Highway) is still coping with problems brought on by decades of abandonment and blight. Crime is too prevalent, and absentee landlords abuse the small houses that characterize the area.

But residents decided a decade ago to take control of their destiny. They merged five small neighborhood associations into the Marlborough Community Coalition and incorporated it as a nonprofit. The coalition’s leaders are adroit at enlisting partners to help them solve problems. And they look for maximum results. It’s not enough to just beautify the area, they say. A project must also contribute to the good of the community and the health of its residents. Examples include green spaces that look and function like parks but also contain stormwater runoff; remodeled houses that transform blighted blocks and help reduce crime; little surprises like pocket parks and front-yard water gardens; and a youth arts festival that gets bigger every year.

The area is beginning to appeal to homebuyers who are drawn to the charm of some of the old houses and the neighborhood solidarity. But don’t look for teardowns and half-million-dollar homes to spring up any time soon. While Marlborough residents want improvements, they’re on guard against gentrification. Neighborhood leaders are hoping to create a community land trust to provide quality housing for low- and-middle-income residents and also to put the brakes on rapid, exploitative property transactions that currently benefit unscrupulous landlords and could potentially be used to gentrify the area.

Things are going so well in Marlborough that some realtors reportedly have taken to advertising it as “Waldo West.” But you won’t hear that from these imaginative and hard-working residents. They’re fine with calling Marlborough home. 

Categories: Culture