Another step was taken Tuesday toward turning the long-vacant and vandalized West High School and Switzer Elementary buildings into a residential complex on Kansas City’s West Side.
The Kansas City Plan Commission approved the developer’s request for a blight designation according to a Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority urban renewal plan. The redevelopment authority will move ahead to submit a final redevelopment plan for further review.
The project stems from Kansas City Public Schools’ sale of closed buildings. The five-building property now is owned by Foutch Brothers, which is proposing a $15.6 million renovation into 95 market-rate apartments.
In 2012, a partnership of McCormack Baron Salazar and the Westside Housing Organization offered an earlier residential reuse plan for the property, generally bounded by West 18th Street on the north, Summit Street on the east, West 20th Street on the south and West Pennway on the west.
That proposal fizzled when the Missouri Housing Development Commission denied low-income housing tax credits for the project.
Westside Housing subsequently partnered with the Dalmark Development Group and BNIM on a similar reuse plan, but Foutch in 2014 won school district approval to buy and redevelop the 4.8-acre property.
Bob Long, the redevelopment authority’s development specialist, told the Plan Commission on Tuesday that the blight designation and 10-year tax abatement were needed to make the project financially feasible.
Long said the buildings had deteriorated severely and were surrounded by crumbling infrastructure. A fire damaged one of the structures. Most have been entered illegally by squatters.
In addition to renovating the historic West High building into apartments, the Foutch plan calls for restoring the gymnasium, auditorium and other amenities for public access.