Michael Clemens believes his neighbors are ready to put up a fight about one developer’s proposed plans to rehabilitate the former Anderson Elementary School in Independence.

Michael Clemens believes his neighbors are ready to put up a fight about one developer’s proposed plans to rehabilitate the former Anderson Elementary School in Independence.

Clemens was among a half dozen residents who testified Tuesday night in opposition of rezoning the former elementary school from single-family residential and general commercial to multi-family residential. The Kansas City-based Garrison Companies is proposing residential-30 zoning, which would allow up to 30 dwelling units per acre. That equates to up to 141 units on the 4.73-acre property, according to city staff.

The Independence Planning Commission voted to continue the case until the Nov. 10 commission meeting to allow for an additional neighborhood informational meeting to take place.

Pending rezoning approval, Garrison Companies is under contract with the Independence School District to purchase the former elementary school, located at 9701 E. 35th St. in western Independence.

According to Gary Hassenflu, president of Garrison Companies, the former school would be demolished and new multi-family apartments would be constructed. If rezoning is approved, Hassenflu said the former school would be torn down immediately. Garrison Companies then plans to wait about one year to allow the credit markets to recuperate before building the new dwellings, Hassenflu said.

City staff recommended denial of the application because of incompatibility with surrounding single-family residential and general commercial zoning. However, city staff recommended an alternate rezoning of 18 dwelling units per acre or staggering the rezoning.  

“I think that area needs to stay what it is and doesn’t need to change,” said Mark Thomason, who also resides near the proposed project. He said something should be done with the vacant school facility, but Thomason is opposed to multi-family housing near single-family residences.

Larry Johnson, who lives on Denton Road near the proposed project, said he favors high-quality apartments – but he doesn’t see that in the future of Anderson Elementary School.

“High-density apartments are not high quality,” Johnson said. “They’re just a step above tents.”

Bill Rogers, interim director of the NorthWest Communities Development Corporation, said he supports the rehabilitation and believes Garrison Companies’ track record speaks for itself in similar projects, such as the Cold Storage Lofts in Kansas City.

“This is a dream come true,” Rogers said. “For us to get developers to come to town and bring their own money and resources is a rarity. For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would want that old building to remain there, boarded up and with graffiti.”

Christopher Livingston lives just east of Anderson Elementary School, and for the most part, he’s sold on the idea of rehabilitating the facility. He’d like to see more information about the project, such as whether it would blend in with the style of the residential neighborhood, before he’s completely on board.

“I think something needs to be done with that school because it’s been sitting there for a long, long time,” Livingston said. “I do think it’s viable, and I do think it’s a good plan. Something needs to be done.

“People don’t like change, but sometimes you have to have change.”