Independence’s historic preservation saw much change in 2012.

Independence’s historic preservation saw much change in 2012.

In early July, Heather Carpini started as the city of Independence’s new historic preservation manager. Carpini provides staff support to the city’s Heritage Commission, which also added two new members last year, replacing two term-limited members.

These were among the highlights that Mike Calvert, chairman of the Heritage Commission and a resident of the Harry S Truman National Historic Landmark District, provided in his annual report Monday to the City Council.
The Heritage Commission last year also participated in the Preservation Month during May, as well as presented the W.Z. Hickman Award for Historic Preservation. Commission members attended several statewide training events and engaged in the use of social media with Facebook and Twitter pages.

“The historic preservation division has joined the 21st century,” Calvert said.

Earlier this month, Independence received a $15,000 grant through the federal Historic Preservation Fund, which will help in conducting an intensive architectural and historical survey of about 160 late 19th century to early 20th century buildings in the North Main Street neighborhood.
The research should begin this spring and will wrap up by the end of the year, Calvert said.

The Heritage Commission’s purpose is to preserve, conserve and maintain the aesthetic and historical resources of Independence and to improve the quality of the city’s environment through preservation, conservation and maintenance of neighborhoods.

The commission also is charged with promoting the economic and educational benefits of preservation, as well as highlighting the city’s cultural heritage. Commission members meet monthly in the council chambers at City Hall.
The commission is responsible for the locally designated Harry S Truman Heritage District. That local district includes 150 parcels, 119 of which contribute to the character of the district. The district area is mostly along Delaware Street, from Maple Avenue to Bess Truman Parkway.

While commission members haven’t yet approved a set list of goals for 2013, Calvert said, several ideas for accomplishments include increasing the commission’s visibility within Independence; identifying preservation issues and commission concerns; advocating for new local historic districts and National Register listings; and promoting the use of state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

The Harry S Truman National Historic Landmark District, which was expanded in 2011, contains nearly 600 parcels and includes the locally designated district, the Truman Library and the Square. This year, the Heritage Commission is aiming to promote that expanded district even further in the community.

“It is a valuable resource for economic development and heritage tourism opportunities,” Calvert said. “That is a gold mine we haven’t even tapped yet.”


District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir asked for an update on the former Pitcher Elementary/Anderson Alternative School, which is in her district. In January, the Heritage Commission approved a certificate of appropriateness, which asks for proposed work to take place in a historic district or site.

A fire last April damaged most of the school, and the city has deemed the structure a dangerous building. The conditions approved on Jan. 8 included delaying of demolition for 90 days, as stated in the city’s Unified Development Ordinance, to allow for the applicant/owner to advertise the property for sale to see if any buyers could potentially salvage the structure in its existing condition.
“People in the neighborhood are very frustrated by the lack of apparent activity at that site,” Weir said. “I try to keep them informed as much as possible. ... It is a shame, really, to see that building be in the state that it’s in and to be at the point where it really must be demolished. Certainly, it holds a lot of nostalgia for a lot of people and had some legitimate historic relevance to southwest Independence.

“That said, it’s just been a perpetual problem to people in that area, and I’m glad it’s coming to a resolution.”

The 90-day period ends on April 8, and the developer, Gary Hassenflu with Garrison Companies, has already submitted a demolition permit with the city. Plans for the property include a 24-unit, ranch-style apartment development for low-income senior residents.

“It appears that (the developer) has had no offers on the property,” said Heather Carpini, the city’s historic preservation manager, “so demolition should proceed after April 8.”