In 2014, the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri obtained a federal grant to replace the 134-unit Chouteau Court Public Housing Project—a dilapidated series of structures anchoring a high-crime and low-hope neighborhood. As part of the Paseo Gateway Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan, Pendleton ArtsBlock was envisioned as one of five new decentralized construction projects to replace the units that were demolished.
The 38-unit project includes six studios, 21 one-bedroom, and 11 two-bedroom apartments. The project reconsiders the concept of replacement housing and neighborhood catalyzation by including outreach to artists to be included in the tenant mix. The design team responded with a mix of unit types enclosed in a brick masonry block that plays into the material pallet of the neighborhood.
The residential units sit over a glass-wrapped, porous ground level of community and artist-occupied spaces designed to promote pedestrian interaction. The artist-occupied spaces are provided rent-free, helping to launch creative small businesses with a street-front presence on Independence Avenue. A large, divisible community room welcomes visitors on the ground floor and serves as a meeting place and community hub for the residents.
ArtsBlock was designed to specifically cater to the needs of the artist community. Each housing unit was designed to maximize daylight and flexibility to accommodate the specific needs of each artist. In addition to the large workshop and makerspace on the lower level, each floor is equipped with a shared utility room with artist resources in an effort to maximize square footage within each unit.
By sparking new life with multiple destinations on an important but under-performing street, ArtsBlock rethinks how a mixed-use typology with artists serving as change agents can provide dignity and a sense of pride for low-income residents while working to break a decades-old cycle of poverty. Through the redevelopment of the Chouteau Courts family public housing development, ArtsBlock works as a catalyst for the surrounding Paseo Gateway district by providing affordable housing and economic development, increased safety, and quality of life improvements to help transform an area of extreme poverty within Kansas City.
Throughout the design process, community members, stakeholders, and artists were actively engaged through public meetings, visioning workshops, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. Resident surveys were conducted to understand resident’s needs in education, health, recreation, and economic resources. By implementing design strategies that address the specific needs of Chouteau Courts residents and the larger community, ArtsBlock has been successful in creating a safe, affordable, community-oriented, dignity-restoring housing complex that has sparked economic growth along Independence Avenue and in the Pendleton Heights neighborhood as a whole.
ArtsBlock is a sustainable, Enterprise Green Communities-certified building located on a blighted site that formerly housed a gas station. The project is largely designed to provide ample natural daylight and enhancing the human experience in an effort to encourage healing, restore dignity and promote a sense of community pride within an affordable housing complex..