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Without Space To Add Parking, Westport Commons Plan Could Stall

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Architect Bob Berkebile presents the KC Sustainable Development Partners plan for Westport Commons. The group wants to add more parking around the old school buildings in Midtown.

A plan to redevelop the former Westport High School into a co-working space might never get off the ground if the developers can’t get permission to add more parking.

Kansas City Sustainable Development Partners, which already owns Westport Middle School, has asked the school district to lift a restriction that requires they maintain the track and field for community use.

If the Kansas City Schools Board of Trustees doesn’t, architect Bob Berkebile says the partners won’t be able to add enough parking to satisfy lenders and would pull out of the project.

“What we’re trying to do is create enough parking to prevent some of those cars from ending up on the streets in the neighborhood, which the neighborhood doesn’t want,” Berkebile says.

Right now there are 104 parking spots on the high school campus. Berkebile says he can squeeze in 263 more.

Though Berkebile says the partners have favored users like Literacy Kansas City whose clients use public transportation – Westport Commons lies along the primary north-south and east-west lines – he says banks still want to see adequate parking for other users.

That means adding another 40 or so spots where the track and field is now. Problem is, when the district asked neighbors what they wanted, they specifically requested that part of the campus be left alone.

“If I lived in the neighborhood, I would sit there and ask those same questions,” says Gerald Smith of Lenexa-based co-working company Plexpod.

Smith says because co-working is so new, it’s too early to say whether conventional wisdom about how much parking is needed will hold true.

“From what we have been told from the people who are interested in being a part of that Plexpod facility is that many of them do live in the neighborhood and many of them will have a reduced need for cars,” Smith says.

About 75 people attended an informational meeting Monday night with Berkebile, Smith and the other partners.

Berkebile told them even if the school district agrees to lift the usage restriction on the track and field, it won’t automatically be paved for parking. The partners just want the option to present to lenders.

The school board meets Wednesday night. As it’s their last meeting before the April 5 election, it’s possible they’ll vote then.

The first phase of the project, housed in the old Westport Middle School, is on track for 2017 completion.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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