Proposal for student housing on Troost is back

Photo from a Community Vision for St. Francis Xavier School, June 3, 2013.

Photo from a Community Vision for St. Francis Xavier School, June 3, 2013.

In 2012, the Kansas City Catholic diocese faced neighborhood opposition when it proposed to build student housing on Troost Avenue. Now the proposal seems to be alive again at city hall, and neighbors are protesting that developers have not reached out to them.

The idea at the time was for the former St. Francis Xavier School at 5220 Troost to be torn down and replaced by a five-story building providing dormitory-style student housing.

The diocese was working with a Domus, a developer that has built Catholic residence halls.

This week, neighbors and parishioners of the neighboring St. Francis Xavier Church met to discuss new information that the project is once again on the city planning commission agenda for Feb. 18.

Les Cline, president of the 49/63 Neighborhood Association, told the several dozen people he learned about the plans in an email from someone at UMKC, not from the developer. Kansas City has a strong tradition of requiring developers to meet with neighborhoods before asking the city for changes in zoning or plans.

“Developers that have an intent to develop in our neighborhood need to communicate and demonstrate a clear value to our neighborhood,” Cline told the group.

In fact, Cline says the community has a very strong vision of what types of activity it would like to see on the school site because it participated in a needs assessment completed in 2013.

That assessment by BNIM says, “Nearly all participants agreed that the building should be maintained and it is the opinion of the architectural consultant that the building is viable for adaptive reuse.”

Community members said they saw a number of potential reuses for the building: a primary school, an early childhood development and family counseling center, a culinary center, a business/non-profit incubator, workforce training classes/adult education/university outreach space, event space, and/or a garden and summer market.

The neighbors have not yet gotten details of the new plan, and Domus developer John Flynn was not available to meet with them this week.

Cline says they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision about the project. Residents expressed concerns about the viability of for-profit Catholic student housing and what would happen to the building if that idea failed. They also objected to the size and scale of the proposed building and the impact it might have on already-tight parking in the neighborhood.  And some church members said the development was not in keeping with the mission of the parish to serve the needs of the low-income community around it.

Those at the meeting also expressed concern that they had not been included in the planning process.

“We have too many questions. There’s too much at stake,” Cline said.

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