National City Manager Conference – Re-use of old school as apartments



While I was in Kansas City last week, I took a bus tour of revitalization projects that had been completed within the past couple years in the city.   One of the nicest projects was the re-use of an abandoned school built in 1909.  The old school had been vacant for over 10 years and the city formed a public/private partnership that renovated the school into fifty 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments.

The apartments kept as much of the “look” of the school rooms as possible.  The wood floors, old chalk boards and old wooden doors, etc., were refurbished and incorporated into the design.

The common areas of the school were also repurposed.  The auditorium became public space that can be reserved for meetings or gatherings.  The old gym was renovated and became event space.   The hall ways were renovated but the old school features were retained in the design.

Finally, the parking lot was gated and the parking surface was a permeable pavement that allowed rain water to soak through the asphalt into the ground instead of going into the storm sewers.


The renovation was $22 million and the apartments were leased full in six weeks.  They used Low Income Housing Tax Credits as part of the financing package.  I wouldn’t support that here, but the renovation gives us some ideas to look at for Lincoln School on Central.  With the size and age of that structure, it’s going to have asbestos and lead paint and who knows what else inside.   Title to the school has forfeited to the State of Ohio for unpaid taxes.  We’ve spent over $15,000 mowing since it was abandoned.  Demolition would run into the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.  What if we could spend that money renovating the school into market rate apartments instead of creating another empty lot?

Seeing best practices in other cities gives us insight into how other cities have successfully solved problems similar to ours.   This may or may not be viable for Lincoln School, but it’s an interesting idea worth discussing next year….

Have a good week!



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