Plans for the old Young School in Independence to see new life are still in place, as fundraising efforts continue.
The Truman Heritage Chapter of Habitat for Humanity has gotten an extension to mid-February to raise matching funds for a large grant that would go a long way toward the needed $2.7 million. The aim is to have renovation work underway by the end of 2018 and be in the building by late summer in 2019.
“So that’s our goal,” said Truman Heritage President and CEO Christina Leakey.
The grant is through the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, based in Tulsa. Go to trumanhabitat.org for more information on giving.
The school on Leslie Street just north of Truman Road taught African-American students from 1934 to 1956, closing when schools were desegregated. It replaced a previous school nearby. Habitat says the building is structurally sound and has a good roof but otherwise needs a lot of work.
Young is among the city’s more notable 19th century residents. Trained in woodworking, he bought his wife and them himself out of slavery. He came to Independence in 1850 and in the decade before the Civil War prospered by making wagons and yokes for settlers headed west. He also championed education for African-Americans.
Habitat is in the business of providing affordable housing, and Leakey said this project means pursuing several goals, which has complicated fundraising. The school would house Habitat’s office and programs, including a home-ownership readiness center for the entire community, fitting with Habitat’s practice of having clients learn the ins and outs of family finances. The renovation of the facility itself is reinvestment in a neighborhood – the area northeast of the Square – that needs it, Leakey said.
Habitat also wants to tell the stories of both the old school and of Hiram Young and honor those memories.
“My goal is to weave the interpretation (of those stories) throughout the facility,” Leakey said. At least one room is to be set aside specifically as a museum. The $2.7 million for the renovation does not include the history part, and Leakey said Habitat is looking for “someone who will champion the information piece of this.”
One more goal: Habitat is working with the Academies of ISD program, which puts every high school student in the Independence School District on a career-oriented track. The Young School renovation would be a pilot program giving students construction experience – jobs expected to be in high demand in the years head with projects such as the renovation of Kansas City International Airport and a major new downtown hotel.
The renovation would put students alongside Habitat volunteers and workers and, Leakey said, give them experience in two key areas – commercial construction and historic preservation.
Habitat also is applying for the state Neighborhood Assistance Program, a Missouri tax credit. In-kind contributions from contractors would count toward the $500,000 that could be raised that way,
Fundraising has been slower than anticipated at first, but Leakey expressed confidence that renovations can get going and move along steadily.
“What we’re looking at is mostly likely phased construction,” she said.