If you've ever watched the movie or the stage play Chicago, and remember the scene where Richard Gere is singing Razzle Dazzle, you may have a good feel for how last night's neighborhood meeting between KCP&L and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association went.
A week ago, the folks from KCP&L appeared on Fox 4 with a little backpeddling saying that they would not build a substation in a way that wasn't favorable to the neighborhood and not welcomed by the neighborhood. Last night's meeting, without the cameras running, had fewer promises, and avoided answering a lot of questions.
They have agreed that they will no longer build an "outdoor" substation, but have not committed to changing the location at 32nd Terraces and Troost...and many of their comments indicate to me that their goal is to still build on that location, but to somehow try to make the neighborhood feel good about it by the time it happens (which I don't think is impossible). While they have agreed to set up a "task force", I am suspicious that there will be no other alternatives brought forward -- or that they will create a reason that they won't work. My cynicism is enhanced when they said they mailed out 540 invitations to another discussion tomorrow night on the topic of all "stakeholders" -- and yet, I live 1 1/2 blocks from the proposed site and I've received nothing, nor have either of our next door neighbors, inviting us...so I"m not sure who is getting the invite.
The meeting was pretty helpful. They talked about how there are two substations serving the "Troost Corridor" (which is broadly defined as 20th Street to 47th Street, State Line to Paseo). One substation is at roughly 47th and Troost, the other is at 18th and Charlotte. Redevelopment downtown and in the Crossroads has but added pressure on the 18th and Charlotte substation, while redevelopment on the Plaza, and the Stowers Institute expansion has put more pressure on the 47th street location....(along with increased needs along the immediate corridor) thus creating a need for a new substation.
They also explained that it is infinitely less expensive for them to build along Troost between these locations where a station would connect with an underground line that runs along Troost and connects these locations.
The impacts on the area will be large...potentially up to an entire city block being used to house the substation (creating a complete dead area at the location, for redevelopment and foot-traffic), huge new powerlines that will run along the historic corridor, and a potential decline in property values for homes nearby.
It's pretty amazing that it has gotten to this point, and no one with the City Council or Mayor's office had heard about this up until 2 weeks ago...and not until the Stowers Institute announced delaying its expansion did KCP&L back off it's opening date of 2008 for the new substation.
I'll also note, that for you folks that live in other neighborhoods, there are two additional substations that have already been plotted on a map to be built for future needs, and I'm assuming that your neighborhood will have the same amount of warning that Hyde Park, Squire Park and Center City got with this one.
Tomorrow I'm going to talk about some alternatives that KCP&L needs to strongly consider before they reach their development (and an alternative if they choose to move forward with the same location). Thursday I'm going to throw out an idea that City Council needs to address (from my wife's comments at the meeting last night) that will help slow the need for future substations as downtown moves forward with its redevelopment.