Vacant Scarritt School slated for reuse

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor


The Scarritt Elementary School at 3509 Anderson Ave., closed in 2010 during the “right sizing” of the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), is being listed for sale and reuse.


After years of sitting “mothballed” without utilities, the site of the old Scarritt School was declared surplus in 2022. On Tuesday, June 21, KCPS hosted an on-site discussion on reuse of the building for community members, including State Representative and Scarritt resident Ingrid Burnett, Jordan Schiele of Jerusalem Farm, and representatives from Ozark Recovery Housing, which is based in the neighborhood.


More than a dozen residents of Historic Northeast, some who attended Scarritt, shared ideas, including for a community center, indoor recreational space, daycare, a variety of affordable housing suggestions – including senior housing, affordable rates, for rent and to own – community theater and arts space, and educational purposes.


Some residents shared they would not like to see it used as a homeless shelter – noting there were many nearby already – expensive apartments or a warehouse. They would also not agree with it being knocked down, unless it was a very good, community-centered project.


Block Real Estate Services is marketing the site on behalf of KCPS, along with four other closed school sites. Proposals will be due in September for Scarritt, and a tour will be held on June 29 for interested parties.


The current Scarritt Elementary building was constructed in 1926 and expanded with an auditorium and gymnasium in a 1962 addition. A previous Scarritt School was built in 1890 in memory of Nathan Scarritt, a Methodist preacher and educator, whose pioneer farm had extended from the present St. John to the bluff. Land for the school was actually purchased from the Bales estate. Scarritt School opened February 1891, with only two rooms occupied. It served the community until it was demolished to make way for the new building. The nearly 60,000 square foot three-story building sits on 2.25 acres in the heart of the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood. Floor plans are available on the district’s website, kcpublicschools.org/about/repurposing.


It is eligible for historic designation and New Market Tax Credits, also qualifying for Opportunity Zone benefits. It is zoned R-2.5.


Former Director of Planning and Real Estate for KCPS Shannon Jaax led the meeting as a consultant.


“In 2017, we reevaluated opening the site for our newcomer center,” Jaax said. “Based off the condition and the costs associated with doing that, we opened the newcomer center at Woodland instead.”


Late last year and early this year, the district conducted an assessment of all remaining closed school sites because they had some that had previously been declared surplus, and others like Scarritt had been identified for district reuse.


“We took a look at those sites, and three of them we recommended that they be moved from the for future school use to the surplus list,” Jaax said.
Scarritt, King/Weeks – a 20-acre site in the Oak Park neighborhood – and the KCNA/Wendell Phillips site near 24th and Vine, were slated for sale.


“The school board, since the beginning of repurposing, has always been very committed to making sure that school sites are reused in ways that benefit the community,” Jaax said. “Ideally, we’d have like 100% consensus on who we sell to and what sites are used for. That’s not always possible, but we strive to take several steps to make sure community members are involved in the process, and that your voice is heard in multiple ways.”


District representatives shared information about the building and the process, and collected feedback for appropriate, community-approved reuses at the outdoor meeting.


“They would like to see that information, we share with parties who are interested in purchasing the site,” Jaax said. “Part of our process is that they have to submit a proposal that will have to say, ‘Hey, how are you addressing things that we’ve heard from the community?’ And they’re all good investment processes, but the feedback that we’re gathering today, we’re going to record and we’re going to make it available on the website.”


Those making proposals are required to respond to the information and will be evaluated for their responses.


“That’s one of the metrics that we look at with our internal evaluation team for proposals that are viable, meaning that groups have the capacity to take on the redevelopment of a site, that they have experience, and that in looking at the initial proposal, it looks like it’s something that would meet what the community says they like to see happen at the site,” Jaax said.


Eventually, each group making a proposal will come and present directly to the community.


“We don’t make any decisions on sale recommendations to the board until we factor in feedback from community members,” Jaax said.


A new addition to the reuse sales, the district also creates a benefits agreement between the district, the buyer and a third party, an entity that represents the community, to keep the community engaged long-term.


“We have a provision in each of our agreements that the sites can’t be used for K-12 without approval of the school board,” Jaax said. “So we have a process that folks go through if you want to partner with a district or if you want to open a school in one of our former buildings or co-locate with us. It’s essentially a provision that survives the initial sale so that if there is a change, the board would need to approve that decision.”


Jaax said there has been proactive outreach to significant organizations and nonprofits in the area, and that will continue. The site is in the process of getting appraised, along with other surplus sites. While there is no list price, she added that the school board has never sold a building for $1, as someone suggested, because it is their duty to be fiscally responsible for the district’s students. The district also does not always take the highest bid.


“We don’t want the list price to discourage a really, really great project, but the board has wanted to get fair market value for the site,” Jaax said. “We do ask our appraisers to give us a range… I would say we have had sites in similar condition selling from $300,000 to $500,000 in that range.”


Jaax expects multiple proposals for Scarritt, and has already seen interest. In the meantime, residents requested the site be secured and monitored for dumping. Residents were mixed on whether the building should be proactively demolished if no viable offers were received. The district could be liable for injuries that occur on the property.


Check back soon for pictures of the tour.

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