It's not hard to find an unused school building in Kansas City. Yet the fight for possession of one empty schoolhouse reached the Missouri Court of Appeals.
The court recently ruled in favor of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, which wants to turn the old Horace Mann School near 39th and Garfield into senior housing. Upholding the decision of Jackson County Judge Justine Del Muro, the Court of Appeals said a city agency failed to act in good faith with the neighborhood group.
Seeds of a court case were sown when Ivanhoe representatives broke off with Prairie Dog, a private development company. The two sides had talked about working together to redevelop Horace Mann, as I described in a previous Martin column.The relationship fell apart, with the Ivanhoers citing concerns about Prairie Dog's fees and and other matters.
As this was going on, the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority deigned that the school sat in a blighted area. The authority asked developers to come forward with plans for the site.
The PIEA awarded the development rights to Prairie Dog. The Ivanhoe group did not recede into the background, however. A few months after the PIEA notified the city that it had accepted Prairie Dog's proposal, Ivanhoe reached an agreement to buy the Horace Mann School from the operators of a Christian school, who purchased the building from the Kansas City, Missouri, School District in the 1980s.