Residential life proposed for two closed Kansas City school buildings

A development company envisions market-rate apartments in the former Marlborough Elementary School, 1300 E. 75th St.
A development company envisions market-rate apartments in the former Marlborough Elementary School, 1300 E. 75th St.

Two closed and long-vacant Kansas City school buildings may get new residential life under redevelopment proposals submitted to the Kansas City Public Schools repurposing program.

The former Ladd Elementary, 3640 Benton Blvd., and the former Marlborough Elementary, 1300 E. 75th St., each have plans that will be publicly previewed later this month.

Both are among dozens of closed schools that the district has sold, mothballed, razed or continues to try to repurpose. Both also have stymied previous reclamation attempts.

Ladd, an 85,910-square-foot building erected in 1912 and updated in 1922 and 1986, has been closed since 2010.

The school district rejected two previous re-use proposals for Ladd because the developers appeared to lack sufficient financing. Developers behind a third proposal last year pulled out before the property was put under contract, also because of a financing gap.

Ladd’s new re-use proposal comes from the Palestine Economic Development Corp., which wants to turn the building into an assisted living center and memory care unit along with a walk-in health clinic for the neighborhood.

The project will be explained at a community meeting set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Brush Creek Community Center, 3801 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd.

The district’s chief repurposing officer, Shannon Jaax, said neighborhood input will be important, especially from the Oak Park Neighborhood Association, which in the past has lacked enthusiasm for senior housing at the site.

“I’ve tried to explain that this is different from low-income housing,” Jaax said. “This is more of a full-service care center.”

The Palestine organization already has senior housing projects in central Kansas City, “but they don’t have the last piece, for people who age and need more assistance,” Jaax said. “And this would have a memory care component that’s missing in the urban core.”

Significant financing hurdles remain for both the Ladd and Marlborough proposals. Both will need to be listed on the historic register in order to qualify for federal and state historic tax credits.

Ladd also will need to obtain New Markets Tax Credits and will need to get a Certificate of Need from the Missouri Health Facilities Review Board to authorize the number of beds planned in the care facility.

At Marlborough, which had been seriously damaged by vandals, Exact Partners LLC is suggesting renovations for the school building to become market-rate apartments.

The 44,000-square-foot school building opened in 1927 and was updated in 1938 and 1952. It closed in 2007 and has been considered a candidate for demolition.

Two previous development teams had considered projects but either didn’t submit a formal plan or pulled out because of financing concerns.

Exact Partners has done a similar school repurposing in Leavenworth. The team also has acquired the former Wonder Bread bakery building at 30th Street and Troost Avenue with plans to turn it into market-rate apartments plus ground-floor commercial space.

Jaax said the district has boarded up more windows at Marlborough and tried to tighten security to prevent further damage to the building, which lost its insurance because of severe vandalism. She said the developer is eager to begin abatement work, and the district would like to have the building under contract by the end of the year.

Marlborough neighbors are invited to hear its repurposing presentation from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Metro Patrol Station, 7601 Prospect Ave.

Jaax said the proposal might include some office or “incubator space” for entrepreneurs, but details have yet to be worked out.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford