The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph’s controversial plan for student housing on the site of the former St. Francis Xavier School got a tentative green light Wednesday, which enraged neighbors and parish members who have fought it for years.
But despite the 4-1 favorable vote from the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, it remains uncertain whether the full council will grant approval when it votes July 23.
The diocese wants to demolish the former St. Francis Xavier School and replace it with an 85-unit, 237-bedroom residential building for Catholic college students on the west side of Troost Avenue near 53rd Street.
The diocese says the old school cannot be affordably refurbished and the student housing project is the best and most financially viable use for that property.
But many members of the St. Francis Xavier parish, plus leaders of surrounding neighborhood associations, argue that the development is being crammed into too small a space, is not a good design and will exacerbate the area’s serious parking shortage. Some feel the existing school building can be saved and repurposed.
The city planning staff has recommended approval of the housing concept, but three times since 2012, the City Plan Commission, an advisory group, has rejected the diocese’s plan because of heavy community opposition.
Councilman John Sharp voted against the rezoning request Wednesday, saying the council shouldn’t ignore such impassioned opposition from so many active civic and community volunteers.
Committee members Melba Curls and Scott Taylor said they also support neighborhoods, but they voted to get the plan out of committee so the full council can make the decision.
Committee members Ed Ford and Jim Glover indicated more support for the plan, especially after the diocese agreed to some conditions to ease a possible parking shortage on the site. Ford urged the diocese to keep talking to neighbors to see if some type of design compromise can’t be reached by July 23.