Groundbreaking celebrates “more than we could have imagined” in Manheim Park

The 103-year-old Bancroft Elementary School in the Manheim Park neighborhood has been vacant since 2000, but as these shovels signify, it’s about to come back to life. Neighbors, community organizations and others celebrated the revival of Bancroft – and the symbolic revival of the neighborhood – at a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday.

“Instead of talking, why don’t I just break out in a dance?” Anita Maltbia asked a crowd in the Manheim neighborhood Saturday.

Residents, community organizations and elected officials had gathered on the site of the abandoned Bancroft Elementary School, 4300 Tracy, to celebrate its official rebirth.

Green Impact Zone Executive Director Anita Maltbia said she was celebrating the fact that one idea, such as how to use the repurposing of the school to revive the community, could affect thousands of people.

Maltbia, Director of the Green Impact Zone, praised the vision of U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, who had the “crazy idea” to revive the declining area of Kansas City by establishing the Green Impact Zone. This 150-square-block area of Kansas City has been in decline: about 25 percent of its properties are vacant lots, and another one-sixth are occupied by vacant structures. Unemployment in the zone is as much as fifty percent higher than in the city as a whole.

But the several hundred people who gathered for the groundbreaking hope that will begin to turn around as the school is redeveloped.

The former school has been closed since the Kansas City School District shuttered it in 2000.

With the help of a broad public-private partnership that includes Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, work is expected to begin next month on a $14 million dollar project.

When completed in January 2014, the former school will be converted into high-environmental-quality LEED Platinum housing. The school itself will be redeveloped into affordable housing units with additional town homes built on the site. In all, 50 new housing units will be built.

Pitt’s foundation is dedicated to building healthy homes and buildings for communities in need. The foundation has worked in New Orleans since the flood, and on other projects in Newark, NJ.  Multi-family housing developer Dalmark is a partner in the project. The Dreiseszun Family Foundation and U.S. Bank are helping to fund the redevelopment.

The project will also include community amenities such as an auditorium, gymnasium, locker rooms, technology lab, job training center, mobile medical clinic, retail space and community gardens.

“It’s more than we could have ever imagined,”” said Manheim Park neighborhood president Saundra Hayes. “We have learned community building. The heavens lined up and the stars smiled on Manheim Park.”


The Make it Right Foundation has some nice photos of the current  interior of the school.

U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Mayor Sly James and other elected officials and community representatives officially broke ground on the Bancroft School Redevelopment project Saturday.