Former City Councilman Scott Taylor’s eight-year term ended July 31. Photo Martin City CID.

Scott Taylor leaves mark on the city, especially south Kansas City

By John Sharp

Having just concluded eight years on the KCMO City Council including the last four years as chair of the powerful Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee, Scott Taylor looks back at his service with a sense of contentment knowing he played a key role in revitalizing numerous commercial areas and saving the iconic former Kemper Arena from the wrecking ball.

In south Kansas City, Taylor is probably best recognized for his leadership in reinvigorating Red Bridge Shopping Center which had deteriorated to the point that it was about half vacant with leaking roofs, obsolescent heating and cooling systems and nearly empty parking lots.

Some developers turned down opportunities to acquire the center fearing it was too far gone to turn around despite its location in the midst of stable relatively high income neighborhoods.

But finally Lane4 Property Group was willing to take a chance on the rundown center thanks in large part to Taylor’s salesmanship and to his enthusiastic support for a community improvement district for the center that allowed it to capture some of the tax revenue generated on site to pay for long neglected and urgently needed repairs.

And look at it now!

Red Bridge is 93 percent leased, and many of the tenants are locally owned businesses that are heavily invested in the community.

Blue Moose Bar & Grill, Caleb’s Breakfast & Lunch and Red Bridge Barrio are all doing tremendous business and offer great food at reasonable prices.  There’s nothing on the menu at Caleb’s that’s over $10. Crows Coffee always seems busy and has become the “go to” place for short business get-togethers in south Kansas City.

And at Euston Hardware customers are actually helped by store employees who know where things are and can advise them on what tools or equipment they need for various home repair tasks.

And even though Taylor’s vision of a thriving shopping center with numerous locally owned businesses already has been fulfilled, the best is yet to come!

The larger new Red Bridge Branch of Mid-Continent Public Library is scheduled to open next month in a building that once housed a bowling alley.

Also in September, site preparation work for the 30,000 square foot Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City is scheduled to begin in earnest with its opening expected in October 2020.

Museum officials anticipate it will draw about 200,000 visitors its first year in operation.  (That’s not a typo!) The museum will not only draw tens of thousands of customers to the shopping center, but it also will be a tremendous educational resource for area children right in the heart of south Kansas City.

And what about Ward Parkway Shopping Center?  Its worse days were behind it when Taylor came on the Council in 2011 since Trader Joe’s was just getting ready to open there, but there were very few places to eat and a crumbling parking structure at the south end of the mall.

Again due in part to a community improvement district Taylor supported, the Center now has a restaurant pavilion at its south end featuring Charleston’s, Smitty’s Garage and Hurts Donuts.

And Martin City’s always thriving restaurant and entertainment scene is doing even better now due to Taylor’s support of funding to widen 135th St. to three lanes with curbs, sidewalks and decorative streetscapes so pedestrians no longer have to walk in the street or in a ditch to go from one nearby business to another. 

And he led the effort to renovate and light the water tower in Tower Park that was becoming a dangerous eyesore due to decades of neglect.

Taylor with wife Cathy Jolly and son Jake.

 And far from south Kansas City there is no doubt that the former Kemper Arena, a seldom used Kansas City landmark in the west bottoms that was very costly for the city to maintain, would have been demolished without Taylor’s persistence in pushing to transfer ownership to a private developer that has totally renovated it as a multisport facility now named Hy-Vee Arena that hosts league play, camps and tournaments for youth and adults that have brought visitors to the city from around the country while providing a great asset to city residents.

Persons also shouldn’t forget the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Taylor and his wife Cathy Jolly, a breast cancer survivor, helped raise for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through annual fundraisers they organized for the Foundation sponsored by the Mayor and City Council.  (Taylor’s successor Andrea Bough has committed to continue this tradition.)   

Scott Taylor has left his mark on the city, but when interviewed for this article he really only wanted to thank his wife Cathy Jolly and son Drake for their incredible support for his public service rather than patting himself on the back.

That is the mark of a true public servant.  

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