Second Chance for an Abandoned School in Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone
The Bancroft School, shown here under construction, was renovated to provide 29 units of affordable housing and community space. Image credit: Mid-America Regional Council. At Bancroft Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri, class may be over forever but the historic building has been saved. Thanks to a partnership among the Dalmark Development Group, Kansas City, and several neighborhood groups, the 106-year-old school has been revitalized as 50 units of affordable housing and community space for the city’s Manheim Park neighborhood. Located in the city’s Green Impact Zone, the development is part of a larger effort to reverse the decline of Kansas City’s urban core.
Green Impact Zone Addresses Economic Decline
Before the 150-block Green Impact Zone initiative was created in 2009, roughly 25 percent of properties in the area were vacant, median home prices had dropped below $30,000, fewer than half of the homes in the zone were occupied by their owners, and nearly 20 percent of mortgages were delinquent. In pockets of the Green Impact Zone, the unemployment rate exceeded 50 percent. To help this distressed area, Emanuel Cleaver II, U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, asked the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the regional planning organization for the 119 cities and 9 counties in the Greater Kansas City area, to sponsor and coordinate the Green Impact Zone initiative. MARC convened the zone’s five neighborhood associations, community development corporations, other community institutions, and city representatives to identify the community’s most important goals and actions, and worked with these partners to secure funding to address these priorities. The partners developed several approaches, including a housing improvement program, to reverse decline and enhance sustainability in the community.
Kansas City provided approximately $4.2 million in initial funding for the Green Impact Zone program between 2009 and 2012. MARC and its partners secured grants totaling more than $178 million for the zone and the broader region. These investments included portions of a Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant from HUD and a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Additional federal funds came from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with private investment from Kansas City Power and Light, Wells Fargo, and local community organizations and businesses.
Repurposing Bancroft Elementary as Affordable Housing
As part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated school building, community members viewed the new residential units, which feature energy-efficient windows, environmentally friendly flooring and countertops, and paints with low volatile organic compounds. Image credit: Mid-America Regional Council
The redevelopment of the Bancroft School was a key housing project for the Green Impact Zone initiative and an important part of revitalizing Manheim Park. The school had been constructed in phases between 1909 and 1922 in the classical revival style typical for public schools at the time. The school closed in 2000, and Dalmark Development purchased the vacant and distressed building in 2009 to convert it into affordable housing. Dalmark Development partnered with the architectural firm BNIM, Neighborhood Housing Services, the Historic Manheim Park Association, Straub Construction, the Make It Right Foundation, and MARC to reach out to the community for input and to redesign the property. According to Bob Berkebile, principal at BNIM, what emerged from the public meeting was “a collaborative dialogue of discovery” in which community members “envisioned reclaiming this abandoned school as part of revitalizing the community.”
In 2012, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and construction began on the property; renovations were completed a year later. The Bancroft School redevelopment is affordable to very low-income households; it includes 29 apartments in the rehabilitated school building and an additional 21 newly constructed townhomes around the perimeter of the school. The 50 total rental units include 28 one-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom units, and 5 three-bedroom units ranging in size from 650 to 1,315 square feet. The redevelopment includes an auditorium and a gymnasium for community events, a computer lab, and a community garden. In addition, 6,250 square feet on the ground floor of the school building is designated for the Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood Association office, a foot patrol station for the city police department, and a Truman Medical Center outreach facility.
Increasing Energy Efficiency
Several energy-efficiency measures helped the project earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification. A 75-kilowatt solar array with more than 400 panels was installed on the roof of the school building. Several donations contributed to the project’s environmental redevelopment; Benjamin Moore donated 2,220 gallons of paint containing no volatile organic compounds, Shaw Floors donated 40,000 square feet of Cradle to Cradle-certified carpet and hardwood flooring, Unico donated a high-velocity heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system, and ECO by Cosentino contributed Cradle to Cradle-certified kitchen and bathroom countertops. Leviton donated energy-efficient windows and occupancy sensors for the units.
The total cost for the Bancroft School project, excluding product donations, was $14.1 million. Funding for the project included $3 million in federal and state historic preservation tax credits, $1.4 million in federal low-income housing tax credits, and $676,000 in Missouri Affordable Housing Assistance Program (AHAP) tax credits. U.S. Bank provided the equity for the AHAP credits to support the project. Additional funding was provided by the Dreiseszun Family Foundation.
The Bancroft School was honored with a 2012 SEED Award for Excellence in Public Interest Design by Design Corps because the project addressed “unemployment, health, energy efficiency, crime, historic preservation, community revitalization, [and] housing” issues in the community. Marlene Nagel, community development director at MARC, notes that the Bancroft school project has spurred both infill housing development and the rehabilitation of single-family homes in Manheim Park. Although the Green Impact Zone initiative has ended, several efforts to improve the area are ongoing. One of those efforts is the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 Urban Neighborhood Initiative, which is working with the Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), MARC, Kansas City, and others to revitalize neighborhoods in eastern Kansas City along the Troost Corridor.
Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Green Impact Zone facilitates redevelopment of Bancroft School.” Accessed 21 January 2015.×
Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “About the Green Impact Zone.” Accessed 6 January 2015; U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II. n.d. “Full Biography.” Accessed 21 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2014. “About MARC.” Accessed 11 February 2015; Interview with Marlene Nagel, community development director at MARC, 28 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Green Impact Zone of Missouri.” Accessed 6 January 2015.×
Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Green Impact Zone of Missouri.” Accessed 6 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Funding.” Accessed 21 January 2015; Interview with Marlene Nagel, community development director at MARC, 28 January 2015; Interview with Marlene Nagel, community development director at MARC, 28 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Strategies.” Accessed 21 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “About the Green Impact Zone.” Accessed 6 January 2015; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities. n.d. “Greater Kansas City, MO: Creating Sustainable Places.” Accessed 21 January 2015.×
Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Strategies.” Accessed 21 January 2015; Emanuel Cleaver II. 2012. “The Bancroft School/Manheim Park Neighborhood Redevelopment,” Facebook post. Accessed 21 January 2015; National Register of Historic Places. 2012. “Bancroft School.” Accessed 21 January 2015; Design Corps. 2013. “SEEDocs: Bancroft School Revitalization,” Vimeo video. Accessed 11 February 2015.×
National Register of Historic Places. 2012. “Bancroft School.” Accessed 21 January 2015; Kimberly Cadena. 2012. “Breaking Ground on Bancroft,” Make It Right (blog), 3 November. Accessed 6 January 2015; Taylor Royle. 2013. “The Most Beautiful Place in Kansas City,” Make It Right (blog), 12 November. Accessed 6 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Green Impact Zone facilitates redevelopment of Bancroft School.” Accessed 21 January 2015.×
Taylor Royle. 2013. “The Most Beautiful Place in Kansas City,” Make It Right (blog), 12 November. Accessed 6 January 2015; Leviton Manufacturing. 2013. “Leviton helps to 'Make It Right' in Kansas City.” Accessed 11 February 2015; Kimberly Cadena. 2012. “Breaking Ground on Bancroft,” Make It Right (blog), 3 November. Accessed 6 January 2015.×
Kimberly Cadena. 2012. “Breaking Ground on Bancroft,” Make It Right (blog), 3 November. Accessed 6 January 2015; Mid-America Regional Council. 2015. “Green Impact Zone facilitates redevelopment of Bancroft School.” Accessed 21 January 2015.×
Design Corps. n.d. “SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design: 2012 Winners.” Accessed 6 January 2015; Interview with Marlene Nagel, 28 January 2015.×
Figure 1. Green Impact Zone Approaches
- Innovative strategies to address weatherization of homes within the zone.
- A coordinated community policing and community services center.
- A multipronged housing improvement program for current homeowners and residents.
- An employment and training program coordinated with both zone activities and business interests outside of the zone.
- Development and implementation of a sustainability strategy for the zone, including energy efficiency and renewable energy sources and green solutions to water and wastewater issues.
- Installation of a smart grid by Kansas City Power and Light and integration with other energy-efficiency and renewable energy initiatives.
- Development and implementation of an economic development strategy.
- An integrated strategy to address abandoned and foreclosed properties and vacant lots.
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