Can’t sell old school sites? Give them to the city

willardA city council committee today advanced a proposal that would transfer four former school sites and a former school to the city.

Three of the sites where schools were demolished would become parkland. A fourth, where Chick Elementary had been, 4101 E. 53rd St., would be used for housing development.

The former Willard elementary building, 5015 Garfield St., would be demolished to make way for housing.

The agreement between the city and Kansas City School District also specifies they would work together toward redevelopment of the former Blenheim Elementary School, 2411 E. 70th Terrace.

The neighborhood and public safety committee voted 2-1 to recommend approval of all this. The full city council could approve it Thursday.

Councilwoman Heather Hall voted against measure today because the city would not pay the school district for the property.

“I just feel like we should be paying for something we’re getting,” she said. “At the end of the day, this school district needs money.”

Shannon Jaax, school district director of repurposing, said it pays more than $1.5 million a year to upkeep buildings and sites it cannot sell.

“These sites were once vital community assets,” she said, “Our goal is to get them back to this purpose.”

The city would pay about $300,000 to demolish Willard school and expects to get a developer for a housing project there.

That plus planned housing at the former Chick school site and planned renovation of Blenheim school could amount to about $50 million in development, city officials said.

John Wood, director of Neighborhoods and Housing Services, said of the sites, “The longer they sit – it’s costing the school districts” and hurting neighborhoods.

Eddie Robinson, a neighbor of Willard school, said it is crumbling, adorned with trash and people constantly break into it.

“It’s at a stage now where material is falling off the building,” he said, “… even the roof is sliding into the street.”

Neighbors want it gone, he said. “We’ve been on this battle for a long, long time.”

Neighbors of the former McCoy school, 1524 White Ave., said life has been much better since it was demolished.

They support making the site a much-needed park, they said.

The other sites of demolished schools that would become parkland are the former Ashland elementary, 4610 E. 24th St., and West Rock Creek elementary, 8820 E. 27th St.

The Ashland site has one small house on it that would be purchased by the city and demolished, park officials said.

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