Brookside – How It All Began

A new book about Brookside came out last Fall and I’m finally getting around to reading it.  Titled “The Brookside Story – Shops of Every Necessary Character” by LaDene Morton, this short but well-researched book tells the history of one of the nation’s first shopping districts built outside of a downtown area.  For as much as I love Brookside..I didn’t know that much about its history.  Shame on me–but that’s resolved now!  I’m not quite finished with the book but wanted to share a few facts that surprised me.

*Brookside was started in 1919, before the Country Club Plaza.  I had always assumed the city grew south from downtown and Brookside followed the Plaza. But JC Nichols created his plan for the Brookside shops to serve the residents of the Country Club District–“America’s first planned subdivision to be built on a massive scale” according to the book. 

*The Country Club District was created to attract wealthy residents from Quality Hill, who were moving due to the growth of the downtown area.  Nichols wanted to attract these people to the Brookside area to keep property values stable.  He wanted the families who moved here to stay here–and so designed the winding boulevards, tree lined streets, large and smaller homes with easy access to shops and other amenities. This was his “‘plan for permanence”.

*The Brookside Shops were born in 1919, when Nichols first broke ground at the northeast corner of 63rd and Brookside Blvd. Over the next ten years, more shops were added. In a very shrewd move, he first sold a lot on 63rd to the City of Kansas City MO for construction of a new fire and police station, knowing that this basic public service would be essential to attract residents.  The Station Building now houses The Fiddly Fig.

I’ll write about  more interesting Brookside stories in future posts.  If you are a fan of Brookside,  buy this book!  Visit the website, www.brooksidestory.com, for more information. 

Thanks for reading my blog–your comments are welcome!

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Skip the Mall–Holiday Shop in Brookside

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she went Christmas shopping to the stores at 119th and Black Bob in Olathe.  She hated it!  So much traffic, a vast parking lot, long checkout lines and crowds everywhere.  There are some times you just have to make a trip to a big box retail store for some specific generic item on someone’s list.  But if you want to get something a bit different…and have a  pleasant holiday shopping experience at that same time…  head to the Brookside shops centered around 63rd Street and Brookside Boulevard.   Here you will find the usual–and the unusual–gifts for those on your list.  And make your first stop Stuff.

Browsing through Stuff  I found so many very cool gift ideas–at all price ranges.  I hear guys complain about how hard it can be to buy for a girlfriend, a mom, a sister.   Not at this store.  No matter what age–Stuff has something for her. And it’s all unique, much of it made locally, and the staff is super-friendly, offering great suggestions if you are stumped.  Here’s just a few of the things I saw that would make a special gift: brightly patterned baby burp cloths; blue striped fingerless mittens; oversized luggage tags; cord wrap for USB cords; sparkly hand clutch purse; custom number/letter tiles for your home; framed wall earring display (great for  a teen); rich lotions and soaps (a splurge for the stressed); one of a kind ornaments;  jewlery!!!;  and…my favorite…the (well made, cotton) Brookside sweatshirt, available now as a zip up hoodie or pullover ($48).  The Stuff staff is personable, friendly, and will gift wrap your purchase!

I also stopped at World’s Window  for some (locally made) ZUM soap.   This is a great shop as well– a focus on ethinic clothing,   lots of pretty scarves and bright clothes, plenty of  jewelry, folk art, textiles and imported decor.  When I checked out I received a coupon valid for 20% off  during the after Christmas sale–which will come off their already reduced after Xmas prices!  They will gift wrap your purchase here as well.

A few other ideas for those who may be hard to shop for:

Tasty Italian delights from Bella Napoli;  all natural products from  Brookside Barkery for the dog lover;   decadent Christopher Elbow chocolates from The Roasterie; a Christmas pop-up book from The Reading Reptile; a classic toy or game  from Brookside Toy and Science; unusually scented candles from 5B and Co candles.  And there are a few chain stores sprinkled in that also offer gift options:  Baskin Robbins (gift card stocking stuffer); Hallmark card shop (ornaments, wrap and ribbons); Beauty Express (hair/nail salon products).  Another gift I really appreciate as a working mom–gift cards for a take out dinner.  That gives me a night off from cooking–what mother doesn’t appreciate that?  Carmen’s Cafe, Jalepeno’s or Blue Grotto are good options, but don’t forget Julian for a nice evening out dinner option. At Julian I want to dine in with my husband…and no kids!

Didn’t this blog post actually put you in a shopping mood?  You don’t have to dread holiday shopping…if you head to Brookside!  Thanks for reading my blog–you can reach me via email or my website.

What’s Really Happening at Southwest High School?

Last night I attended the monthly board meeting of the Armour Hills Homes Association.  A resident came and shared with us copies of two long email messages, written by a community volunteer, about her experience at Southwest. Her email outlined several disturbing incidents in and around the school: kids getting off the bus but not going into the school; open pot smoking just outside school doors;  extremely loud hallways filled with foul language and name calling; dress code not being enforced;  video of students having sex in the bathroom; sex on cars; verbal and physical harassment of persons walking by the school; teachers call for security but no response; students refusing to comply with requests from administration; truancy;  fires being set…you get the picture. There are security officers at the school but they  cannot keep up with the non-stop chaos. I have no way to verify these incidents but surely school officials are following up with more investigation.

What’s interesting about this email is that the author was asked to leave the school and discontinue her volunteer role. She seems to feel that she was asked to leave because school officials do not want the general community knowing about the extent of the problems at the school. Here is someone who is trying to make a difference, who isn’t being paid, who is willing to try, in a small way, to help out on a regular basis–and she is no longer welcome at the school.  Is there another side to this story as to why she was asked to leave?

The Brookside community made a very deliberate effort to reach out and welcome the students at Southwest.  Volunteers cleaned up the grounds and painted the walls; communication was started, residents offered their time in the school.  Brooksiders  would love to have a local  public school middle/high school it could  show off.  A few years ago when the SWECC reopened with an emphasis on preparing kids for college, there was real hope for success. Teachers, students and parents had to make a commitment to the challenging college prep education. Now, it appears the school has many more students who really don’t care at all about paying attention in the classroom. A high percentage of the students who  wanted to take advantage of the college prep program have left this year.  As a community we reached out  to the students and administration at Southwest–was that just a wasted effort?  It’s so bad that Steve Scraggs, Southwest’s principal, had enough and quit over the weekend. 

What to do?  That’s what I’ll be thinking about for the next blog post.

This Brookside Home Needs a New Owner!

Despite the slow housing market, sales continue in Brookside.  Seems like everyone wants to live here…or at least consider it when looking for a new home.  During a recent open house, I had four couples from North Kansas City interested in moving to the area–four different couples in three hours!  That was unusual.

This home, at 441 W 58 Terrace, needs a new owner. It’s been on the market since spring, and is now reduced to $295,000.  This is a lot of house for the money, especially considering the location.  Why hasn’t it sold yet?  Many reasons, I believe–the initial price was high for many buyers, it needs a little polishing up here and there, the backyard isn’t large and it’s perhaps too much house for empty nesters.  The positives of this house are many: it’s on a great block (I used to live two homes down and know the neighbors!); it’s just a few blocks north of the Brookside shops and a few blocks south of Loose Park; it has four large bedrooms, three and a half baths, a two car garage and newer roof; it has hot water heat; a newer kitchen; a family room, cozy library and separate office space. There are many classic architectural details: a leaded glass window, original light fixtures, maid’s staircase, front porch, stucco and brick exterior.    The owners want to move closer to school for their children.  They are ready to entertain offers–so if you know of someone who is looking in the area–call (816 510 1262) or email me.  You can also visit my website for more photos.   

This home is such a great value and has so much to offer it’s next owners…help me get it sold!!

My Valentine to Brookside

Why do I love living in Brookside…?  There are so many reasons..I’ll just start typing…

1. Character.  The character of the homes, so many different styles, so well made, still standing after 80+ years. This is not a cookie cutter neighborhood.

2.  Character Part II.  The character of the Brookside residents. Young and old, gay and whatever, single, married, retired, dogs and cats, various nationalities–you can encounter all of these characters on a single block.  Within a five mile span there are very wealthy folks and the singles on a budget. all mingle together. 

3.  Character Part III.  The character of the local shops and restaurants.  Here in Brookside, we have local residents selling goods and services to … local residents.  Julian, Stuff, The Well, Foos, The Roasterie, Bella Napoli, SRO Video, Eclectics, Blue Grotto, Waldo Pizza…these places are unique to the area and appreciate the support of the local nieghbors. 

4.  Walkability.  There are other communities that try to duplicate Brookside’s charm and walkability.  But we are (one of) the original(s).  The Trolley Track Trail winds through Brookside and Waldo–here you see friends and nieghbors out walkin’ the dog and the kids.  It’s a great path for a jog..or break out the bike.  Off the trail…stroll the sidewalks to the shops for a cocktail or coffee.  You will probably see someone you know.

5.  Affordability.  Those who can spend a half a million for a house can find it in Brookside.  Those who have much less can also find a home in the area.  Home prices have taken a little tumble but overall, remain steady.  Brookside will always be a desireable place to live because of ….

Character.  Thank you JC Nichols, who started it all.

Armour Hills Home Sales Stats – November

A quick blog post today regarding the home sales stats for the largest subdivision in Brookside–and my home turf.  November home sales statistics for Armour Hills:

Seven  homes sold in November, the lowest sales price was $146,000 and the highest was $385xxx.  The average sales price was $247,000 and average days on market:  84.

Currently there are 26 homes for sale in Armour Hills, the lowest price house is $159,900 and the highest is $369,950.  Average price is $242xxx with days on market at 107.

(Stats are taken from the Heartland MLS and are deemed reliable but not guaranteed)

This is the time of year when home sales typically slow down.  Buyers are busy with the holidays and homes just don’t show as well in the cold weather. If you are thinking of selling your home next year, NOW is the time to get it ready for the market.  Buyers will come out early  next year, wanting to take advantage of the tax credits before they expire at the end of April.

Thanks for reading my blog–you can contact me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com