KC Diocese's controversial housing project delayed again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Some Kansas City, Mo., neighbors and parishioners are breathing a temporary sigh of relief over a controversial proposal for an empty school.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has decided to take its proposal for a student housing project off the Nov. 6 docket of the City Planning Commission. But the project is far from dead.

The diocese wants to tear down the vacant St. Francis Xavier School building at 53rd Street and Troost Avenue and replace it with housing, aimed at attracting students from Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

RELATED | What to do with the old St. Francis Xavier school? http://bit.ly/R5jZJG

Neighbors and parishioners at St. Francis Xavier Church have their list of concerns. They worry about the size of the project and parking problems in an already-congested neighborhood. Their biggest concern, however, is communication.

"This project was originally presented as a done deal," said neighbor and parishioner Les Cline. "There was poor communication between the diocese, the developer and the community and the neighborhood."

That is one reason the City Planning Commission refused to vote on the proposal on Sept. 4. The commission told the diocese to go back and meet with all concerned parties before the November 6 meeting.

"The first thing we did is we had a meeting between Bishop Finn and four representatives of the neighborhood," said diocese chancellor Jude Huntz.

RELATED | Commission delays decision on St. Francis Xavier School future http://bit.ly/OPGdLN

The fourth public meeting with the diocese about the project was held at St. Francis Xavier Church on Thursday night. A 41 Action News camera was not allowed inside the room, even though lack of transparency with the public forced the original voting delay with the city.

However, Cline said communication has improved.

"We have more confidence that a more inclusive process is going to happen," he said.

"But the larger issue is, what do we do with this property," Huntz added.

The diocese is now hiring an outside firm to study the best use for the school property. The study could take months and in the meantime, the project will be off the City Planning Commission's docket. It could be resurrected depending on the study's outcome.

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