Raytown Post, 2009, Local pastor has big heart for big building

Truesdale, Staff Writer

parklane_013-300x242It doesn’t take long before John Wiley gets excited when he talks about his plans for the former Park Lane Hospital building.

“What we most look forward to is converting this building from a community eyesore to a community asset that helps needy working families move to a place of dignity,” said Wiley.

Wiley plans to accomplish this goal by converting the approximately 100,000 square foot vacant medical structure into a multifaceted facility that meets the needs of the working poor, called the Kansas City Dreamcenter—City of Refuge. The idea may be a dream come true for the working poor families he says will be the primary beneficiaries, but Wiley has a very vivid image of what this building could become.

Wiley envisions providing for the needs of three different groups in the facility in the next ten years. First, he sees a floor dedicated to providing lodging and services for the working poor, providing them with a direct alternative to “pay by the week” living arrangements and giving them the opportunity to receive resources needed to be successful in permanent housing.

Next, he sees an area dedicated to providing a safe haven for victims of human trafficking and he also envisions a floor dedicated to helping victims of the sex industry who are seeking to leave that lifestyle and need a support system to be successful in positive work environments and social networks.

“(I have) already spoken with a number of successful existing agencies who we will be working together with to provide space to meet critical needs,” said Wiley.

In addition to meeting needs of the working poor and victims of the sex trade Wiley also plans to provide a massive stand-alone power generator that can be used in cases of emergencies. Such a generator could be used to create a Homeland Security Command Center that can be used by public service agencies needing to provide critical service in cases of widespread power outage.

The cost for all of this is difficult to estimate until the construction plans are complete. The building was erected in the 1970’s and has stood vacant for approximately ten years, but Wiley estimates the price tag in the “millions”. He plans to pursue “Green Dollars” through Energy Credits, as well as other funding mechanisms from governmental agencies at various levels. Funds may also be available from private sources.

Wiley is quite emphatic that he envisions this as a “community owned project”, including “multiple churches at the table providing services”. He points to his track record of “being a good neighbor”, both at the River Church, and at the community pool owned by the church.

“So far, we have raised $40,000 from a variety of sources of the $60,000 gap needed to make the down-payment” said Wiley.

Although he currently pastors the River Church in Raytown, a separate not-for-profit board has been created to oversee the development and operations of the Kansas City Dreamcenter. He says he has already received many favorable responses from community leaders including key decision makers at City Hall in Kansas City where the building is located. Several steps have already been taken to promote and create bridges within the faith community, with plans in the works to develop a position focused on interfacing with local churches.

“Isaiah 58 says that we are to feed the hungry, help the wanderer, and not turn your back on the one in need,” said Wiley who has a strong faith-driven motivation for taking on this project.

Beyond that, with a broader appeal, he says that helping the working poor “is just the right thing to do”.

The plan is to get started on a floor-by-floor design and construction timetable as soon as the purchase of the building is closed, which is currently set for mid July. Wiley appears undaunted by the size and scope of the work. At the end, he says, “this will be a project that we can all be proud of”.

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