Developers creatively repurpose St. Louis Public Schools

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - After a lightning strike caused a vacant school to catch fire this past weekend, many are wondering what’s next for the building.  Hempstead Elementary School is just one of many vacant St. Louis public schools that the district hopes to repurpose.

The Clark School, just north of Delmar on Union Boulevard, is the most recent St. Louis public school for sale. For the past four years, the beautiful, century-old school has sat empty, but SLPS Real Estate Director Walker Gaffney has a vision for buildings like this.  FOX 2 took a closer look at one former school, where that vision has become a reality.

With his bare feet and baseball glove, Larry Hutmacher is young at heart; it’s probably why he likes living in an old school so much. “It’s like, I keep wondering when the hall monitor’s gonna come by,” he jokes.

In 2007, the Franklin School on 19th Street and Delmar was transformed into 75 apartments for residents 55 and older.  With its common areas, secured access and loft-style apartments, Hutmacher loves it: “I have like 20-foot ceilings, one bedroom, plenty of closet space, and it’s perfect for me.”

Gaffney, who manages the school district’s portfolio of closed schools, hopes the Clark School can enjoy a similar destiny: “It’s beautiful, it’s located just a few blocks from Forest Park; I think it would make a wonderful redevelopment.”

Clark is just one of 22 St. Louis public schools on the market right now.  On average, they range from $300,000 to $600,000, and developers are creatively transforming them into apartments, hotels, community centers, and art studios.

Gaffney explains, “I think the impact of a closed school is the loss of an institution that is part of the backbone of a neighborhood, so our goal is to try and get those buildings back in service where it’s financially and economically feasible.”

As for Hempstead, with significant damage from the fire, its future remains uncertain. But Gaffney and neighbors hope it’ll somehow be a bright one. “It’s obviously a loss for the neighborhood, because that was, as the people across the street told me, a grand old lady of the neighborhood, and they were very sorry to see what happened,” says Gaffney.

Not all vacant buildings are on the market.  Fifteen empty schools are not for sale, either because they’re in poor condition, or because the district plans to repurpose them.

For example, the Des Peres School reopened this past school year, while Carver and Mitchell will reopen this fall.

The list of St. Louis Public Schools for sale is available here: http://www.drpartnersllc.com/?page_id=11

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3 comments

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