Where basketballs once dribbled on the gymnasium floor of E.F. Swinney Elementary School, the sounds going forward will be of icemakers dropping cubes in refrigerators.
The former school building at 1106 W. 47th St., built in 1914 in the classic brick style of the day, now holds 33 sleek and modern apartment units, three of them carved from the former gym where the original floor is buffed to a sheen.
Upstairs, part of the old auditorium also has become living space in the new West Hill apartments, as have former classrooms. And on a lower level that once housed the boiler room, a fitness space offers exercise equipment for residents.
The building’s conversion, augmented by 38 units in a new-construction addition, will be celebrated Friday by Dalmark Group LLC and Sustainable Development Partners. The team adapted the building for residential reuse after it was closed in 2010 by Kansas City Public Schools and sold in 2013 for about $550,000.
The now-71-unit complex was reborn at a cost of $15.9 million. It offers a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at monthly rates ranging from $975 to $2,450, depending on size and location.
Twenty-three units have been leased since the first of the year, with tenants choosing a mix of the old and new, said Zachary Nichols, project manager with Dalmark.
Nichols and his father, Jim Nichols, owner of Dalmark, came to the Swinney project with previous experience converting the former Bancroft Elementary School at 4200 Tracy, which they tackled in 2012 along with Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation and BNIM architects.
Dalmark has worked on other multifamily residential projects in the Crossroads, jazz district and midtown areas of Kansas City, as well as developments in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, North Kansas City and Springfield, Mo.
At Swinney, Dalmark joined Sustainable Development Partners, which also is working on adaptive reuse of Westport High School and Westport Middle School in midtown Kansas City.
Straub Construction, Rosemann and Associates architects, The Mission Bank, Bank of Lee’s Summit, CRA Investments and Rosin Preservation also participated in the project.
“The first thing we did was preserve the historic school,” said Jim Nichols, “and then we began addressing neighborhood concerns. We wanted to save the building but also needed added units and parking to make the project cost effective.”
Many meetings were held with the West Plaza Neighborhood Association to address questions and hear comments.
Despite earlier doubts because of district updates in the 1990s to the original school, the redevelopment team was able to restore the facade and qualify for federal and state historic tax credits after spending $70,000 to remove an exterior elevator tower.
“The important thing for the addition, because of the historic status, was that the new construction ‘complement’ the original structure,” said Chip Walsh, a member of the Sustainable Development Partners group. “That’s a challenge.”