Attention real estate investors, speculators and bargain hunters — have we got some deals for you!
It's no secret that over the past three decades, the Kansas City, Missouri, School District has closed at least 30 of its buildings. Some were sold and some were torn down, but others were simply deserted. We can't tell you exactly how many buildings fall into that last category because district administrators have done such a poor job of accounting for these properties. We asked for a complete list of abandoned schools, and officials sent back just 11. There may be more.
As the Independence School District has discovered this summer, it isn't easy getting ahold of Kansas City School District buildings — even when voters command the district to hand them over. The school board and its real estate arm spent most of the summer fighting the transfer in court.
The district's headquarters is supposedly for sale, but the board doesn't seem eager to unload the hot property. Back in May, the district solicited offers for the building at 1211 McGee, a prime piece of real estate next to the new Sprint Center. It's reportedly received several offers, including one from City Hall, but the school board has not yet acted.
And then there are the abandoned schools. Months ago, the district hired Block & Co. realtors to market and sell some of the schools. But the school board has done nothing to determine which schools should be sold or how much they're worth.
It might not be easy trying to make a deal with the district, but opportunities abound for investors willing to put up with the aggravation.
Even after being abandoned for as long as two decades, these buildings are generally an impressive lot. The hand-carved stonework, Spanish-tile roofs and arched brick entranceways are reminiscent of the Plaza and the Liberty Memorial — Kansas City's golden age.
Developers unwilling to invest in the city's urban core can get in on the action, too. Though the majority of these forgotten schools are in the city's more impoverished neighborhoods, some are near rehabbed houses and new, upscale condos.
To help with the marketing effort, The Pitch has collected square footage and property values from the Jackson County Tax Assessor's Office, gathered historical data from the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Library's archives and consulted John Duncan, a retired educator who serves as unofficial school-district historian.
Owning more than 418,000 square feet of abandoned buildings makes the Kansas City, Missouri, School District the metro's biggest slumlord — and we say it's time for the public to act!
Act now on this one, because its one of only two schools that we saw with a for-sale sign on it. Picture low-income apartments or senior housing on this hill just blocks above Brush Creek.
History: Named for local historian George Bancroft, this building started out as a two-room schoolhouse in 1904. In 1996, Bancroft adopted a novel curriculum geared toward raising a legitimate sense of integrity, but that wasnt enough to keep the school district from closing it in 2000.
Square footage: 23,376
Switzer School, West Junior High
and Switzer Annex
1810 and 1829 Madison
Yuppies continue to renovate and build on the West Side, and heres a future condominium complex in the making. Not far from Mexican bakeries and upscale bistros, this complex of 10 lots has the potential to be a Kansas City gem once again.
History: Switzer opened in 1881 and served as a middle school for the children of West Side immigrants, first Scandinavians and then Mexicans. Educators figured the kids wouldnt go to high school, so Switzer offered classes from seventh through 10th grades. The oldest of the abandoned schools, its also one of the longest abandoned, having closed in the 1980s.
Square footage: 82,596
Price: $1.6 million
Bingham Junior High
This building would make the perfect setting for a postapocalyptic thriller, especially if your end-of-days scenario is set in the 1980s. Or bring the wrecking ball, because with direct access to the Trolley Trail, these grounds would also make an ideal property for a new housing development in this upper-crust section of Waldo.
History: Namesake George Caleb Bingham was a 19th-century American artist and statesman who helped lead Missouris fight against secession from the Union. The 48-year-old schools colorful history includes authorities tear-gassing students in the 1970s and a kid shooting himself in the foot during an assembly in 1992. It closed in 2002, and weeds have since taken over what must have been grassy gardens between its buildings.
Square footage: 64,922
Price: $1.2 million
9701 East 35th Street
Manicured lawns and quaint rehabbed homes surround this brick behemoth, with its stately half-circle drive and big oak trees out front. Your condo conversion or new estate could be part of an Independence revival.
History: The school district annexed Anderson in 1957, and it wasnt included in the school transfer that voters approved last year. Originally known as the Pitcher School, in the 1980s it became a school of last resort for students in danger of dropping out. It closed in 2000.
Square footage: 19,071
3711 East 27th Street
Remove those pigeons roosting everywhere and convert this into a respectable world headquarters for your megacorporation on busy and perhaps someday thriving East 27th Street.
History: Greenwood had just two teachers when it opened in 1900, but with Kansas City booming, it grew in 10 years to more than 21 rooms, a gym and two manual-arts rooms before closing in 1997. Neighbors now find the paved playground convenient for unwanted bags of trash.
Square footage: 22,225
Paul Robeson Middle School
Imagine impressing your clients when you convert this building, with its unique geometric esplanade, into a business headquarters. This great south KC location is near highways, shopping and good private schools.
History: Named after the black Shakespearean actor, opera singer and civil rights activist, the school converted to a classical Greek magnet school in 1990. That gave way to a traditional middle school program in 1998, and the building closed in 2004.
Square footage: 102,724
Price: $3.2 million
Seven Oaks Elementary
This school comes complete with expansive grounds, perfect for an English garden to surround this condo conversion or future estate. The entrances include Craftsman-style stonework and Art Deco flourishes.
History: Seven Oaks was actually a district unto itself before it was annexed by the city in 1913. Its named for a neighbor who came from Sevenoaks, England. It closed in 2003.
Square footage: 20,684
Frances Willard School
This series of red-and-black buildings with clay tile roofs and intricate stonework could easily anchor a tony part of town. The arched windows and European-style towers could be the selling points for a mixed-use development of condos and businesses.
History: Named after a famous temperance worker, the school started out with 37 kids and a principal named Rose Wickey. Each of Willards classrooms featured doors that opened onto the playground of the sprawling campus. It closed in 1998.
Square footage: 37,809
Old Faxon School
The Paseo is poised to be the new Crossroads Art District, and this building is right in the thick of the boulevards transformation. It features a cornucopia of historic KC construction materials, with stone on the first floor, striped brick on the second and yellow brick on the third. Stonework above the entrances includes Greek-style busts staring down, as if in approval of the art galleries and studios that could grace these grounds.
History: Frank A. Faxon, a respected citizen and member of the board of education, lent his name to a school that opened in 1906 to 88 students and two teachers.
Square footage: 22,225
6841 Truman Road
Imagine motoring up this circular drive and entering your new home, with hand-carved stonework on the arched entranceway. Skylights in the east wing could accentuate your new solarium, and the paved rear yard could hold multiple tennis courts.
History: Manchester joined the school district in 1899, but the present building wasnt finished until 1920, delayed due to World War I. Once completed, Manchester boasted a bathroom for each classroom, two gyms, two open-air rooms for anemic students and evening classes for non-English speakers.
Square footage: 29,588
Houses, townhomes and apartments all around this grand old building have been renovated in recent years. This is a project perfect for a developer with deep pockets.
History: Norman School was the first school building in Kansas City constructed with a stone exterior, giving it a stately look that fit the uptown wealth of the Valentine neighborhood of 1901. Last used as a teacher resource center, it closed for good in 2005.
Square footage: 15,903
Hannah Zimmerman contributed to this report.
Photos by Eric Barton
Click here for a slide show of more photos from Kansas Citys forgotten schools.
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