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Greenwood Elementary set for demolition Monday

Posted at 11:58 PM, Oct 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 08:30:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Greenwood Elementary School, which many residents consider a fixture of the city's east side, is scheduled to be torn down Monday morning.

The school, which sits on 27th Street between Monroe and Cleveland avenues and was built in 1906, has been closed since 1997, but that hasn't stopped neighbors from fighting against its demolition.

"It's been empty for over 20 years, and it's been a birdhouse," said Lamond Rushing, who owns the block of buildings on 27th Street that face the school. 

Still, the demolition date came as a shock to the South Round Top Neighborhood Association, which has been working on a plan to turn Greenwood Elementary into a community center. 

"This is very important," neighborhood association member Bella Graham said Sunday at an emergency meeting called after learning about the scheduled Monday demolition. "This school sits in our neighborhood."

The association said two developers expressed interest in investing if the building qualified for a historic designation, which would allow for certain tax incentives.

City Manager Troy Schulte also committed to selling the building for $1 if the district would turn it over to the city.

Understandably, the group celebrated Friday when the Kansas City, Missouri, City Commission voted unanimously that the school is eligible for the national historic register.

That joy faded around 3:30 p.m. after an email from Kansas City Public Schools indicated the demolition was set for early Monday morning.

"The second the neighborhood was successful on inching forward, they kind of get the rug pulled out from under them and this go-ahead on the demolition," Kate Heinen of the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Center for Neighborhoods said. 

The neighborhood association conducted the emergency meeting to brainstorm possible next steps, including making signs to hold up outside Greenwood Elementary on Monday morning. 

Kansas City Public Schools said in a statement that it's too late to halt plans to tear the school down. 

"To stop the demolition process would come at a sizable, multi-hundreds of dollars of cost to us," KCPS spokesman Ray Weikal said. 

According to the district, the school board delayed a vote on the demolition contract in June and gave the South Round Top Neighborhood Association 30 days to draft a plan.

KCPS Board of Education Chair Melissa Robinson said they did not receive a complete re-purposing proposal, so the board voted in July to move forward with the demolition. 

"Unfortunately, it didn't coincide with our re-purposing efforts, and so we weren't able to move forward in the way that they wanted us to ... but we do want the community to know we are invested in what happens to that site," Robinson said. 

The district also noted that canvassing efforts have been underway for two or three years with some residents who live near the school voicing support for the demolition. 

Members of the neighborhood association also raised concerns about lead exposure during demolition. Greenwood Elementary sits across the street from a 24/7 daycare.

KCPS acknowledged those concerns and said a "wet process" will be utilized for demolition to prevent dust contamination of surrounding properties.

"It's not required, but it is a more conservative and expensive process that does add an extra way of making sure that none of those particles will impact the community," Weikal said.

The neighborhood association will gather in front of Greenwood at 7 a.m. to talk with the demolition crew and hold up signs in protest.

For more information on KCPS’ repurposing initiative, click here.