Jazz District

Kansas City, MO

The 18th and Vine Historic District is the African-American cultural district in Kansas City. It earned the name, “Jazz District” during the period from 1920 to 1940 when it became one of the cradles of jazz music in America. The heart of the Kansas City sound, the district launched the careers of many notable jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker, and increased the visibility of others, including Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong and others.

Between the 1950s and the late 1980s, the district went into decline and, despite its proximity (just two miles) from downtown Kansas City, became a neglected corner of the city.

The rebirth of the area began in 1989 when Emmanuel Cleaver, who was then a councilman, helped pass a $22 million sales tax revenue package for the renovation of the jazz district.

As a result of this effort, multiple cultural institutions opened along 18th Street, including the renovated 550-seat GEM Theatre Cultural and Performing Arts Center, the Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Jazz District Visitors Center were opened in 1997. McCormack Baron Salazar joined the effort in the late 1990s, and the Jazz District apartments opened in December 2001 with 73 apartments over ground floor commercial space. The Monarch apartment building followed in 2006, with 78 apartments over ground floor retail. In total, the apartments represent $26.6 million in investment in the district and provide both market rate and low-income housing opportunities within the community.

The developments were made possible through a public-private partnership including the local Community Development Corporation, the Hall Family Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, the City of Kansas City, and the Missouri Housing Development Corporation.