Development

Switzer Lofts emerge from former West High eyesore in Kansas City

Tour the newly converted Switzer Lofts on KC's West Side

The once-dilapidated properties — five buildings in all that were the former West High, West Junior High and Switzer Elementary schools — have been reborn as Switzer Lofts after a $24 million renovation.
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The once-dilapidated properties — five buildings in all that were the former West High, West Junior High and Switzer Elementary schools — have been reborn as Switzer Lofts after a $24 million renovation.

What to do with a vandalized and long-vacant old high school building? And what about the former elementary school across the street?

Foutch Brothers LLC showed off its answer Tuesday afternoon at a ribbon-cutting event on Kansas City’s West Side.

The once-dilapidated properties — five buildings in all that were the former West High, West Junior High and Switzer Elementary schools — have been reborn as Switzer Lofts after a $24 million renovation.

The first tenants began moving into the newer, less-challenging-for-renovation elementary building last year. Since last fall, renters also have been moving into the historic high school at 1829 Madison Ave.

The former junior high and high schools, composed of four adjacent structures, served students for more than a century before being closed by Kansas City Public Schools. The oldest part dates to 1899.

The buildings sat vacant for two decades until Foutch purchased them from the school district for $450,000. The deal closed in July 2015, and redevelopment began in September 2015.

The Kansas City, Mo., school district has been working on selling shuttered school buildings around the city. In this video, three former schools (Robeson, Switzer and Faxon) show the challenges and successes of the former schools.

The renovation dealt with some unusual challenges, such as converting the former indoor swimming pool to an apartment with a sunken living room. When possible, the revamp retained former classroom features, such as chalkboards on some walls, old light fixtures and built-in cabinets.

The result is 114 new residential units in a 150,000-square-foot complex.

To make the project financially feasible, Foutch obtained $3.8 million in federal historic equity and $4 million in Missouri state historic tax credit financing. Private investments came from The PrivateBank, National Trust Community Investment Corp., AIG and US Bank. The redevelopment also received a 10-year property tax abatement through Kansas City’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The renovations provided tenants with a fitness room, laundry facilities, lounges, outdoor patios with grills, a sand volleyball court, landscaping and surface parking. The school’s original auditorium was retained and is being made available for community meetings.

HarenLaughlin led the construction team.

The residential units start at $850 a month for the smallest units and rise well above that depending on size and location. The apartments range from studios to three-bedroom units, with options for one-,1  1/2 - or two-bath units. Residents pay extra for parking.

Foutch Brothers has worked in four states and completed at least 20 school renovations. The company’s biggest adaptive reuse project in Kansas City is yet to begin — the conversion of Kemper Arena to a multiuse sports facility.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford

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