The sprawling Robeson Middle School campus, padlocked since 2006, could become a large community athletic facility under a proposal revealed Monday night to neighbors who live near the Kansas City Public Schools property.
A partnership of Wisdom Exchange Inc., Garcia Architecture, FTE Land and Sports Division, and SMA Management Group LLC proposes a renovation of the one-time Jewish Community Center at 8201 Holmes Road.
The $8.6 million first phase of the renovation plan calls for two sports fields plus indoor basketball and volleyball courts; a swimming, diving and gymnastics facility; yoga rooms; a day care; and other spaces.
The property covers 20 acres between Holmes and Troost Avenue. It was opened as a middle school in the 1980s.
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The redevelopment partnership said a possible phase two of the repurposing plan eventually might add more indoor courts on the east side of the existing building, and a possible phase three could add single-family residential townhomes along Holmes.
The building’s 151,880 square feet of space housed classrooms, an auditorium, an indoor swimming pool and two gyms. Some parts of the building have experienced extensive vandalism, including copper theft, but the basic structure is sound, according to site assessments.
The school district sponsored the public meeting at Hartman Elementary School.
Sean Pickett, a Kansas City lawyer leading the development team, said his interest in school repurposing began about four years ago when he was part of a group that wanted to reuse the former Bingham Middle School property in Waldo for youth and adult sports.
That idea never reached fruition, but the need for such community sports spaces continued to grow, Pickett said Monday afternoon.
Pickett said the partnership has tenants “who jumped in right away” when they heard about the potential Robeson reuse.
If the school district agrees to the partnership’s proposal, Pickett said he hopes to close on a contract in August, begin renovations in September and open at least part of the facility in the fall of 2018.
“That site has been a waste of space for a long time,” Pickett said.
Pickett and Rafael Garcia, an architect and lead designer in the partnership, both grew up within minutes of the Robeson site. They said they’re eager to create a successful project for the neighborhood.
Garcia said the renovated campus also could provide education programs, a culinary school for youths and a youth theater.
Pickett said the partnership will not seek tax increment financing and is unlikely to pursue any tax abatement plan. He said the renovation could be accomplished through traditional bank financing.
“We don’t want to do anything that harms the district in terms of taxes,” Pickett said.