New York Asian Community Development Group Expands into Heartland

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October 3, 2011; Source: The Kansas City Star | Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), a New York City nonprofit housing developer and social service provider, has expanded into America’s heartland. The community development corporation bought a former Army depot in Kansas City, Missouri, with economic revitalization and job creation in mind.

AAFE purchased the 18-acre Hardesty Federal Complex for $500,000 at a recent auction held by the General Services Administration. The property houses seven buildings totaling 572,000 square feet that were originally used to process the personal effects of fallen World War II soldiers. It has been used by several federal agencies since then and was finally abandoned a decade ago.

Less than 2 percent of Missouri’s residents, or about 96,000 individuals, are of Asian descent. Roughly 8,500 Asian Americans live in Kansas City itself.

AAFE’s mission, however, is not only to empower and aid Asian Americans but to assist others in need and “to foster understanding and unity among diverse communities through building coalitions and forming collaborations.”

The organization now has the opportunity to fulfill its mission in Missouri. Close to 15 percent of Missouri’s population lives below the poverty level and the redevelopment of the Hardesty Complex may help some of the area’s struggling residents, Asians and non-Asians alike.

“We’re in the preliminary stage,” Kevin Kong, an AAFE official, told the Kansas City Star. “We have the site, and we’re trying to understand what the needs are." He continued, “Over the last 20 years we have been doing low-income community housing and community business loans. We think that site is better for economic development than housing.”

It will be interesting to see what this New Yorker does in Missouri.—Erwin de Leon