Westport school reuse proposals narrowed to two

Residents listened to proposals from three development teams with ideas for the redevelopment of Westport Middle School and/or Westport High School today. They rejected a proposal for a low-income senior housing project, but expressed interest in hearing more about one proposal for market-rate housing and another for a private school and large urban garden project.

At a community presentation Saturday, residents of the area around Westport High School and Westport Middle School agreed two proposals for reuse of the schools could be a good fit for their neighborhoods.  The surplus schools are among 30 the Kansas City School District has put up for sale. Under the district’s “repurposing initiative,” the community is given input into how the schools will be redeveloped.

School Repurposing Director Shannon Jaax said the district received four proposals for potential projects at Westport High and Middle Schools. After one of the developers dropped out of the process, the district invited three teams to present their ideas and answer questions today. The proposals included:

  • Foutch Brothers of North Kansas City proposed residential housing around the outer perimeters of the two buildings, with small business, office or business incubator space in the central areas. They would build 150 market-rate residential units and would rent the athletic fields to sports teams. They would also offer fitness centers and a pool.
  • Garrison Community Development of Kansas City presented a plan to repurpose Westport High School only into 118 affordable-housing senior apartments, with a community garden and a playground for grandchildren of the residents.
  • KC Sustainable Development Partners, which includes Bob Berkebile, David Brain, Michael W. Knight, Butch Rigby, Louis D. Steele and E.F. Chip Walsh, would center the high school’s redevelopment around a new pilot private school which could become a model for how urban schools can succeed. The middle school would house nonprofits. They also have an agreement with Cultivate Kansas City to build an urban agricultural center on the middle school site, including community gardens and orchards, and space for conducting training in urban agriculture.

Following the three presentations, residents agreed by a show of hands they would support the Foutch and Sustainable Development Partners proposals moving forward. They said they did not favor the Garrison plan because it would add more low-income housing to an area that is already saturated. The school district’s repurposing team is evaluating the next step, which could include more community meetings or a recommendation to the school board.

We’ll have more detailed coverage of the two proposals on Monday.