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Burned-out Independence school finally coming down

Updated: 2013-07-03T04:32:17Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas City Star

The long-closed C.R. Anderson Alternative School in western Independence will be demolished by the end of July, a developer says.

Gary Hassenflu, owner of Garrison Companies of Kansas City, also said construction could begin soon on the approximately 5-acre site for a seniors’ residential project. In its first phase, the development would include about 40 units.

“We hope to start next spring,” Hassenflu said.

If so, the site’s redevelopment would represent a reversal of several years of fits and starts. City Council member Eileen Weir recently invited area residents to Roberts Park, near the school, for an update.

“The meeting was to ensure people that we are doing everything in our power to have the developer follow through on his plans,” Weir said.

Fire damaged the old school at 9701 E. 35th St. just over a year ago. Since then, Weir said, momentum on the property appears to have stalled.

The school opened as Pitcher Elementary in the 1920s, and it later became an alternative school.

The Kansas City School District closed the school in 2000, but still operates a newer Pitcher elementary school at 9915 E. 38th Terrace.

The Independence School District took jurisdiction of the old Pitcher/Anderson building after voters approved a 2007 referendum through which the district annexed several Kansas City district schools. The Independence district later sold the building to a Garrison Companies affiliate.

One proposal put forward by Hassenflu envisioned a 141-unit housing project. That caused some concerns regarding density.

Then fire destroyed much of the building on April 22, 2012.

A log maintained by Jennifer Clark, who recently left the post of Independence community development director, notes that the Independence Fire Department tagged the building as “dangerous” on the same day, and that discussions with Hassenflu or associates have followed.

This past January the Independence Heritage Commission voted to allow the developer to demolish the building, but added a 90-day waiting period to see if another developer wanted to salvage the remaining structure.

No buyer came forward, said Weir, and the building became eligible for demolition again in April.

Last month, city staff members met with Hassenflu regarding the state of the property. On June 21, a staff member drove by the school to find that trash and rubbish had been removed and that the grass had been mowed. A broken fence, however, had yet to be repaired.

Weir said she expects demolition to begin next week.

The city could demolish the building on its own, Weir said, but would be spending its own money on property owned by a private developer. Further, the cost would require almost all of the city funds currently set aside for dangerous building demolition.

“I don’t think it should be done at the taxpayers’ expense,” Weir said.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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