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Improvements to 100-year-old center help improve City service delivery

City of Kansas City, Mo., councilmembers Troy Nash, 3rd District at large, and Saundra McFadden-Weaver, 3rd District, toured the Robert J Mohart Multi-purpose FOCUS Center Monday to see recent improvements. The tour was led by staff from the City's Capital Improvements Management Office.

The Mohart Center, which is operated by the Neighborhood and Community Services Department, has stood at 3200 Wayne Avenue for nearly 100 years. Since its opening, the facility has filled many needs in the community, including having served as a place of worship, a Masonic Temple, and most recently as a community center. The building is undergoing more than $4 million in renovations being conducted in two phases.

Phase I of the project is currently in construction and includes making the building ADA compliant; upgrading the auditorium, multi-purpose rooms and a portion of the heating and cooling system; and performing environmental abatement. Phase II of the project is scheduled to begin in early 2007 and includes improvements to the lighting and sound systems in the auditorium and multi-purpose rooms; improvements to the kitchens that serve the elderly and children in the day care areas; and renovations to the east and west offices of the building.

"These improvements to the Mohart Center will enable the City to continue to serve citizens young and elderly alike, through Meals on Wheels, Head Start, Summer Food Service, the Foster Grandparent programs, among many other invaluable offerings," Nash said. "Hopefully this building will continue to serve the community for another 100 years, providing new and improved services and programming as well."

Jackie Powell, division manager for the Mohart Center, knows firsthand the immense resources provided to the community through the center, and she has been a long-time advocate for improving the facility. Even as the first phase of the project was successfully funded and progressing forward, she continued her efforts to obtain additional funding for the second phase of renovations.

"It was wonderful to move forward with the first phase of improvements, but we couldn't stop there. Not when the lighting in the multipurpose room and auditorium makes it difficult to see, the refrigerator in the kitchen isn't functioning, and the parking lot is unsafe and it fails to meet ADA compliance," Powell said. "The second phase was necessary not only to improve our service delivery but also to meet basic sanitation requirements for our kitchens."

Many of the services delivered at the Mohart Center focus on assisting older adults. One such program is the Senior Adult Services Program that provides a variety of services including meals, social development activities and tax preparation. Some seniors have had trouble accessing events held at the center because of the lack of complete ADA accessibility. These improvements will make attending events much easier for those with disabilities.

"Some of the old restrooms in the center had doorways that were only about 2 feet wide, which made it impossible for anyone with a wheelchair to get through the doorway on their own," said Ingrid Bunn, project manager for the Capital Improvements Management Office. "This project will widen the doorways to public restrooms, add ADA assist buttons to several restrooms, add an elevator and rebuild the connecting corridor between the two buildings to make the center more accessible."

"I have great appreciation and excitement for this very important project that impacts the lives of many Kansas City residents," McFadden-Weaver said. "I applaud Jackie's efforts in highlighting the Mohart Center's importance in our community."

Powell said these improvements will attract new clients to fill the center's offices. Powell said she also wants to use the newly renovated gymnasium and multi-purpose rooms to host affordable yet elegant wedding ceremonies and receptions.

"One of the most important days in a person's life is the day they get married," Powell said. "After the renovations, this building will be restored to its original, grand beauty. It will be the perfect place for those who want to have an elegant yet inexpensive wedding, and who want to share their history in this historic community building."

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