Johnny Youssef, who has been restoring a rundown church in downtown Kansas City, said crime and homelessness would make him unlikely to do it again. “I probably wouldn’t do a project like this again unless I truly see a change,” he says. “Until those things happen, I don’t think I would mess with urban Kansas City anymore.”
Youssef purchased the 101-year-old church in 2022 hoping to use it as a wedding venue with a boutique hotel. But costly burglaries, theft and vandalism have blown out his budgeting and have cost him around $60,000, between replacing the materials and tools, paying workers to fix the damages, lost revenue and mounting interest on his loans.
“Unfortunately, I’m going to have to pay out of pocket,” he said. “I’ve already filed that with insurance and basically, I know that if I file anything else, they’ll cancel me out.”
Between the rise in crime and slow and ineffective responses from the police, Youssef believes he’s on his own. “I realized really quickly that we have to fend for ourselves,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can on our own to try to prevent it from happening because otherwise it just happens and there’s nothing that can be done further.”
Overall reported crime increased nearly 8 percent from 2020 to 2022, according to Kansas City Police Department data. The agency is “down nearly 300 officers from what would be our full strength,” a spokesperson told Fox News, adding that violent crime has “risen over historic levels” in recent years.
Youssef, a real estate developer, has experience with crime disrupting projects under construction. But he didn’t anticipate how badly his new building, which he decided to call Melrose Abbey, would be affected.
“I expected that we’d have an attempted break-in here or there, but I did not expect it to be this bad,” he said. “I would probably say every other day the security system is ringing.”
Youssef has employed a number of measures to deter more crime, such as hiring an expensive monitoring company and installing an alarm system, a temporary fence, lights and cameras. If his new security measures work, Youssef said he is likely to complete renovation of the venue’s reception space in the next three months and the boutique hotel by next summer.
“I really believe in the city and I hope that our leaders and the mayor would really take action,” he said. “If we really want to help those addicted to drugs and those on the streets, we really have to find ways to have them get out of that lifestyle instead of finding ways to help them not be accountable.”