Rebuilding A Neighborhood In An Old School Way

Video By Chuck Olsen
In good neighborhoods, people trust each other. But how do you build that trust when a neighborhood and its homes are in decline? The socially conscious architects of BNIM have been wrestling with that problem in Kansas City, Missouri and may have hit upon the solution. You start by building trust between residents and the designers who can rebuild the neighborhood.

Barbecue was the magic trust-builder that got things started in Kansas City’s blighted Manheim Park. Architects sat down over barbecue and got the conversation started over how to turn the neighborhood’s abandoned Bancroft school building into an asset that would help make Manheim Park a better place to live.

“When a school goes dark, it kind of sucks the life out of a community.” says Bob Berkebile, Principal of BNIM Architects. He says reclaiming the abandoned Bancroft school was a way of revitalizing the community. It also was a way to spend money that empowered people instead of creating dependency.

On Saturday, ground will be broken to start the project.

The renovation has some physical obstacles. The old school, vacant since 1999, needs to have asbestos and lead removed. The renovation also needs to be done in a way that didn’t remove the character of the place.

When finished, the school will be split into 29 apartments and 21 new apartments will be built on the school ground providing a total of 50 affordable apartments total. The project also includes a community center, neighborhood association, offices, police substation, computer labs and a gym.

According to Berkebile the project design turned out so well because of the collaboration and trust of all the stakeholders involved. “I think it shows us a way to deal with urban communities anywhere in America.”

This film is part of SEEDocs, a documentary series produced by The UpTake showcasing the public value of design. The projects are selected by Design Corps, a non-profit whose mission is to create positive change in struggling communities through participatory architecture and design. Each year, Design Corps grants the SEED Award to six projects with exceptional social, economic, and environmental impact. The 2012 SEEDocs series is produced with funding from The Fetzer Institute.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek.

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