Smoke stains creep out from some windows. Plywood boards warp at others. Broken glass, mangled pipes and graffiti litter the dark interior.
But 14 months from now, the long-abandoned and damaged buildings that once housed West High School, West Junior High, Switzer Elementary and a public library are expected to begin housing apartment tenants.
Foutch Brothers, which won redevelopment rights last year from Kansas City Public Schools, on Thursday signaled the beginning of construction on a $17 million plan to create 114 market-rate apartments in the five-building complex.
The new residential units, located just north of 20th Street on Summit and Madison streets, will range from studios to three bedrooms and are expected to rent for between $800 and $1,600 a month, depending on size and location.
“We are excited,” said Barbara Bailey, a neighborhood representative. “It’s the density we supported, and it’s right for the neighborhood.”
Todd Kobayashi, Foutch’s chief financial officer, said the rehabilitation project ends decades of abandonment. He said some of the apartments will feature preserved school elements such as chalkboards on the walls.
“Along with the apartments, we’re providing about 170 parking spaces, and that will be a real plus in a neighborhood where parking is at a premium,” Kobayashi said.
The plan also calls for retaining the high school auditorium and refitting it with basic lighting and a sound system so that community groups can rent it for meetings, plays or concerts, he said.
Developer Steve Foutch said at a brief groundbreaking event that the process to date had been challenging. At the outset, Foutch Brothers competed with an alternate redevelopment plan, and neighborhood residents were divided about which plan they preferred.
The development team worked through long processes to obtain blight designation, historic preservation tax credits and property tax abatement in order to make the renovation financially feasible. The team also is dealing with hazardous material abatement and the derelict condition of the buildings.
Soon, “we think we will offer good competition for other apartments in the Crossroads,” said Foutch architect Caleb Buland.
Representatives of HarenLaughlin Construction, Block Real Estate Services, the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City, the Kansas City school district, The PrivateBank, Westside Housing, and Westside Community Action Network Center joined Foutch officials at the event.