By LESLIE COLLINS
October 10, 2013
When the Kansas City Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (KC CASE) presented their proposal for the former Saint Paul School of Theology campus, 5123 E. Truman Rd., they encountered ardent neighborhood opposition.
While some residents supported the plan, a number of area residents voiced concerns – anywhere from increased crime to stifling property values to becoming a blighting influence.
KC CASE planned to transform the dormitories into transitional housing for sexually exploited women and youth as well as offer counseling services to the victims. Another facet included offering a host of programs and services to the community, like a charter school, day care, adult education programs, English as a Second Language (ESL), job training, among others.
Now, the deal to purchase the campus has fallen through and there’s another interested buyer: Guadalupe Centers Inc.
Headquartered at 2600 Belleview Ave., Kansas City, Mo., Guadalupe Centers Inc. was founded in 1919 to serve the Latino population and currently operates three schools (elementary, junior high and high school) and provides health and social services, adult education programs, youth enrichment programs, among others.
“It’s a great facility and it’s a good location,” Guadalupe Centers Chief Executive Officer Cris Medina said of the former Saint Paul campus. “We’ve been looking for some space on the east side or Northeast for some time, especially for our charter schools. A lot of our students come from that area.”
Two-thirds of Guadalupe’s students hail from Historic Northeast and the east side, he said.
On Wednesday, Saint Paul announced via an email update that it had executed a contract to sell the campus to Guadalupe Centers, Inc. and that both entities were in the due diligence phase which will last through Christmas.
“I know everybody on our side is excited about this new deal,” said David Sisney, vice president of advancement at Saint Paul. “We’re excited for Guadalupe and the opportunity it affords them in the neighborhood. They’re just a very, very high caliber organization. I just think it’s a real bright spot. We’re hopeful, and we’re certainly praying during the due diligence phase everything goes well and we’re hoping Guadalupe can live out their vision for the property.”
If all goes as planned, Guadalupe will close on the sale by Jan. 15, 2014.
Guadalupe has several plans for the former theology campus, including expanding its grade school. Currently located in the Crossroads District, the grade school is at maximum capacity, Medina said. Hosting a grade school at the new campus would allow Guadalupe to serve additional students and finally have a permanent location, he said. Guadalupe also hopes to expand its middle school.
Other campus plans include offering culinary arts training; adding an office for Guadalupe’s credit union for existing members and to attract additional members; a summer school program; adult education centering around ESL and obtaining a GED; pre-school program; and social services which would include job placement, emergency assistance programs, home mortgage assistance, teen pregnancy counseling, among others. Guadalupe is also open to leasing space to other non-profits that would complement Guadalupe’s mission, Medina said.
As for KC CASE, Saint Paul officials did not provide comment. Northeast News contacted Steven Wagner, who heads KC CASE, who hinted the deal fell through due to Saint Paul.
“I can’t really speak to that issue – you’d have to talk to the seller,” Wagner said of KC CASE backing out of the purchase. “We are looking at alternative spaces for our programs. So, we’re going to go forward, perhaps at a different location.”
Medina said Guadalupe’s plan will bring services to an area that’s been overlooked by others in the past.
“I think that area over there is underserved,” he said. “Bringing a lot of the services we’ve done (over the years) in this part of the city makes a lot of sense.”
Medina also stressed that Guadalupe doesn’t solely serve Hispanics.
“We serve everybody,” Medina said. “This will be for everyone over there.”