Financing is set for Westport Middle School reuse project

The former Westport Middle School
The former Westport Middle School

An infusion of tax credits has greased the skids for Sustainable Development Partners to convert the former Westport Middle School to Westport Commons: An Innovation Workspace Campus.

The multifaceted financing plan will allow the $20 million first phase of a broader midtown redevelopment plan to continue.

The building at 300 E. 39th St. was Kansas City’s first junior high school and, before that, a junior college. It will become a “co-working campus” where multiple tenants can work in a collaborative environment.

The development team identified these sources of financing for the 160,000-square-foot redevelopment:

▪ AltCap CDFI provided $10 million in new markets tax credits.

▪ Enterprise Financial CDE, a subsidiary of Enterprise Financial Services Corp., provided $5 million in new markets tax credits plus bridge financing on historic tax credits.

▪ U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, invested $4.9 million in new markets tax credit equity and $3.1 million in historic tax credit equity.

▪ Missouri Bank provided a $5 million loan.

Reuse of the closed Kansas City Public Schools building is expected to be a catalyst for other midtown economic development. The development team also intends to convert the former Westport High School building across the street, also vacant, to a related community improvement site.

Space in the middle school will be leased to for-profit and nonprofit tenants. Chip Walsh, a member of the development team, said some lease negotiations already are under way through Plexpod, a co-working company that signed on as a project partner in November.

Walsh said interior demolition of the site is largely done and some construction is under way. The project is scheduled for completion at the end of 2016, with tenants moving in in early 2017.

The co-working facility includes the original school building, which dates to 1923, and an annex on the west side that was built in 1992 and is connected by a skywalk.

The project also is working with Cultivate Kansas City to repurpose the school’s former track and athletic field area into green space, community gardens and parking.

Walsh said the project team, which also has the Westport High building under contract, hopes to close on the high school purchase “in the near future.”

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford