Westport Middle School opened in 1924 as Kansas City’s first purpose-built junior high school. It was a large building with almost 140,000 square feet of space for classrooms, science laboratories, a three-level auditorium, separate gymnasiums for boys and girls and a swimming pool. After the school closed in 2011, finding an appropriate new use for the large building posed a challenge.In 2015, HP Development Partners stepped in with a bold plan that proposed using historic tax credits and new markets tax credits to help finance converting the Middle School into an innovation hub for emerging businesses. The plan would include low-cost office space as well as resources for community use.
When the construction dust settled, the result was the world’s largest co-working space. Original classrooms were transformed into a variety of workspaces for individuals and small groups, conference rooms and support areas, all wired for state-of-the-art technology and incorporating sustainable design and infrastructure. The auditorium was beautifully restored to provide meeting and event space for building tenants and the community. The rhythm of classroom doors and lockers clearly recall the building’s historic function.
Rosin Preservation worked closely with the developer and the design team to make sure that the new open office plan meshed with the historic configuration of spaces to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. Other challenges included addressing heavily deteriorated classroom ceilings and incorporating modern HVAC ductwork without compromising ceiling heights in the corridors and while minimizing intrusions in the classrooms.
The completed rehabilitation includes stunning restoration of historic features, highlighted by the plaster in the auditorium and main corridor and the sensitive adaptation of classrooms and secondary spaces for new office tenants.
Westport Commons was one of just four projects recognized at the 2017 Novogradac Historic Tax Credit Conference, receiving the “Historic Development that Overcame Significant Obstacles Award.” [PDF]
300 E 39th Street Kansas City, Missouri