Advocacy, partnership, action spurring improvements in Marlborough Neighborhood

During Marlborough's spring community cleanup event, volunteers filled three trash trucks, one leaf & brush truck, and collected more than 1,000 tires.

Improvements made to Marlborough neighborhoods make it easier and more enjoyable for residents to participate in outdoor activities

Planting fruit-bearing trees

One of Marlborough's pocket parks

Driving on Troost, Paseo, or Prospect between Gregory and 89th Street, the neighborhoods might appear to be uninviting at first glance. These neighborhoods in Kansas City, Missouri, are collectively known as Marlborough, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. 

While outsiders might see only piles of tires on vacant lots and sidewalks serving as a shop floor for a home-based car repair business, committed residents and volunteers, led by the Marlborough Community Coalition, are measurably transforming the physical landscape of our community.

Aging infrastructure, drops in home ownership, boarded-up businesses, absentee landlords from around the world, and the shuttering of social, economic, and religious institutions rarely result in vibrant, desirable physical environments. And that’s where the Marlborough Community Coalition comes in.

Our efforts reflect the needs and desires of our residents to live in a safe, attractive community with opportunities for physical, social, and economic well-being.

We started with the obvious, and simplest, step: beautification.

Planting tulips along Troost, securing flowers and benches in the Marlborough Village commercial district, recognizing residents and business owners for physical improvements to their property, and joining the Center School District in bi-annual neighborhood clean-ups have kept us busy.

We realized that a combination of advocacy, partnerships and action opened doors to substantially more, and more sustainable, improvements.

Our first taste of advocacy came in 2009 when residents banded together to prevent the closure of the Marlborough Community Center. A continuing partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department grew from the experience, and improvements to city facilities have made indoor and outdoor recreation more desirable and accessible for our residents. 

The coalition’s first successful Public Improvement Advisory Committee application included a picnic shelter, tables, water fountains, and parking area at Marlborough Park. These park amenities now invite residents to use the open space and explore the lovely natural areas.

Some large-scale opportunities for physical environment improvements are in partnership with the city’s Water Services and Parks and Recreation departments, and the Smart Sewers program. 

By involving leaders from those city departments in the strategic planning process with the coalition’s board of directors and other community leaders, we were able to transform two stormwater retention sites into publicly accessible space for recreational, cultural, and ecological activities. 

Eleven acres along Troost Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets will encompass a nature and play area, an outdoor mini-amphitheater, public art, and walking trails with educational signage.

A second site, at Hickman Mills Road and 77th Street, has walking paths that will be enhanced by an educational area, parking for school buses, and crosswalks to enable neighborhood access. 

Connecting these two sites will be a 2.5-mile “livable streets corridor,” which is currently under construction. There will be sidewalks wide enough to accommodate bicycles, runners, and pedestrians; enhanced lighting; and native plants in rain gardens and bioswales. 

The corridor offers both recreational and mobility benefits to our residents because it begins and ends at KCATA MAX bus stops on Troost and Prospect avenues.

New coalition partners The Conservation Fund, the Heartland Conservation Alliance, the Pisces Foundation, and the U-Haul National Sustainability Program are also investing in Marlborough’s revitalization with volunteers, expertise, and financial resources to increase opportunities for our residents to live in a healthy environment. 

Pursuing a strategy of advocacy, partnership, and action can be challenging to juggle at times. But it is working for Marlborough.

It energizes our residents and motivates people to invest in the community in amazing ways:

  • An artist created a sculpture-adorned pocket park on a former Land Bank lot for the public to use and enjoy. 
  • Another family is creating a family orchard business on abandoned lots.
  • And best of all, two families with young children, after volunteering with partnering organizations, purchased homes in our community because they want to be more deeply involved in building a healthy Marlborough.

Find out more about efforts in Marlborough by visiting our website, Twitter, or Facebook.

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006