Old Faxon still looks exactly like one of the familiar brick school buildings that dot Kansas City. But inside tells a different story.
The 65,000-square-foot building at 3710 Paseo — closed by Kansas City Public Schools more than 15 years ago — has been reborn as 46 apartments designed as affordable housing for people 55 and older. The units will rent from $530 to $630 a month.
Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corp., Sunflower Development Group, Pioneer Group and representatives of other civic groups gathered in the old school’s auditorium Friday morning to celebrate the conversion, which was at least four years in the making.
Stephen Samuels, executive director of Greater Kansas City LISC, said the redevelopment required a private developer to shoulder the risk, but it also required assistance from a host of community organizations.
Samuels’ group provided $800,000 to pay for several preliminary studies, application fees and renderings.
“It’s a national trend for community development groups like ours to lend more to private developers,” Samuels said.
The hero of the day, according to speakers at the Faxon School Apartments’ grand opening, was Jason Swords with Sunflower Development, who navigated multiple lengthy channels to bring the public/private partnership to fruition. Swords, in turn, shared a long list of individuals, investors, and city and neighborhood officials who helped.
“It takes a village, truly,” Swords said.
He said reclamation of the vacant building would have been impossible without a 10-year property tax abatement granted by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.
Swords said 15 of the units already have been rented and tenants are scheduled to begin moving in two weeks.
The renovation includes the auditorium, which will be available for neighborhood meetings, some common areas and a fitness center. Many of the hallways and classrooms maintain sections of old chalkboards and old pendant lights.
“It’s character,” said Candace Birdsong, who toured the building as a prospective renter.
Birdsong noted the combination of big old classroom-style windows and modern appliances as well as different wall treatments that meld preservation and new construction.
The units include studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments with new kitchen and bath fixtures and modern closet space. They are on four levels in what actually are three buildings. The original part of the school was built in 1910, and one addition was made in the 1920s, with a second addition in the 1950s.
City Manager Troy Schulte said the adaptive reuse of the school building is part of about $150 million in redevelopment on Kansas City’s East Side, and he urged similar projects to continue.
“People are hungry and willing to roll up their sleeves,” Schulte said of the city’s development potential.
Call the Faxon School Apartments at 816-569-4744.