A foundation started by actor Brad Pitt to help rebuild New Orleans after the 2007 flooding is now planning to convert a closed school in an economically depressed Kansas City neighborhood into affordable housing and a community center.
The $14 million project announced Monday would renovate the long-closed Bancroft School with the help of Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation and BNIM Architects, a Kansas City firm that was part of the foundation’s efforts in New Orleans. It calls for making the 103-year-old brick school building into 29 affordable apartments with a community center on the main floor.
Other renovations would include a new building with 21 apartments and space for the Manheim Neighborhood Association, outreach programs offered by Truman Medical Center and a foot patrol station for the Kansas City Police Department. It also would include a garage for 50 vehicles on the 2.7-acre site, The Kansas City Star reported. The entire project will be built to LEED Platinum environmental standards.
Pitt, a native of Springfield, was out of the country and unable to attend Monday’s news conference, organizers said. But he’s expected to visit the site at some point.
“Brad Pitt is a frustrated architect,” said Bob Berkebile, a founding partner of BNIM. “If he weren’t making millions as an actor, he’d be an architect.”
Backers of the project hope it will be a model to help the district find new uses for 38 closed schools scattered around the city. They also hope it is a catalyst for development of the Green Impact Zone, a 150-square-block area that has been targeted for redevelopment using public and private resources.
BNIM was one of several firms chosen by Pitt and the Make It Right Foundation in 2007 to create designs for affordable homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina. About 150 homes have been built so far.
One of BNIM’s architects on the New Orleans endeavor, Tim Duggan, now works for the foundation. The Bancroft project is the foundation’s second project outside New Orleans, the other being in Newark, N.J.
“Tim and BNIM got the attention of Make It Right that a catalytic development was needed for the Green Impact Zone,” Berkebile said. “It seemed like a perfect partnership.”
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who represents the Kansas City area, said the Bancroft redevelopment is an excellent example of a public-private partnership working to revive a poor neighborhood.
“We welcome Make It Right to Kansas City and the Green Impact Zone, and we thank all of the many, many people who have worked so tirelessly to make this day a reality. This is one more step forward, a very big one, in keeping jobs, creating jobs and continuing to boost the local economy,” Cleaver said.
The project’s funding includes federal historic tax credits, state low-income housing tax credits, state charitable contribution tax credits and $2.3 million from the Make It Right Foundation. Rents will range from $470 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to $695 for a three-bedroom.
Sandra Hayes, president of the Historic Manheim Neighborhood Association, said the school has been an eyesore and a target for vandals since it closed in 2000.
“This project will help because it will become a community campus with the Truman Medical Center programs, senior activities, day care, job training, arts and crafts _ that will change the whole fabric of the neighborhood,” Hayes said. “Our community wants to take control back, and by doing that, we’re uplifting the community.”