KCUMB wants to tear down old apartment complex to make room for parking, but some are fighting back

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An old apartment complex has become the center of controversy between a university and a historic neighborhood.

Kansas City Council members will decide Thursday whether Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences can move forward with plans to tear the complex down.

The old apartments sit in the Pendelton Heights Historic Neighborhood. The neighborhood has no problem with KCUMB tearing down these apartments, but  the neighborhood a mile down the road – the Scaritt Renaissance - is fighting this issue.

Part of KCUMB’s master plan is to build a $30-million state-of-the-art surgical simulation center on campus, but doing so will take away some parking spaces on campus.

A look at the proposed surgical center (Image courtesy of KCUMB).

A look at the proposed surgical center (Image courtesy of KCUMB).

A look at the proposed surgical center (Image courtesy of KCUMB).

A look at the proposed surgical center (Image courtesy of KCUMB).

KCUMB bought the old Colonial Court Apartments across the street to tear them down to make room for more parking. The university says they are falling apart and cannot be rented out.

KCUMB officials say they are working with the Pendleton Heights neighborhood by moving two historic houses to this land, but Scaritt Renaissance officials argue these apartments sit in a historic district and letting KCUMB tear them down sets a bad precedent. They argue they should not be demolished but instead, preserved – even though they are in bad repair. They have appealed to city officials, arguing, "We support the expansion and development of KCU, but not at the expense of our historic structures."

The university says even if the City Council approves their mater plan, they might still have to get approval from the Historic Preservation Commission.

"We really respect the people in the neighborhood who are so passionate about this, and we are passionate about historical preservation as well, and we want to do everything we can to help the university in our mission to train the best doctors," KCUMB spokesperson Elizabeth Alex said. "And also to help the neighborhood at the same time, and we're going to keep doing that."

According to Alex, KCU agreed to purchase the buildings, but stipulated that the university is not equipped to become a landlord. The majority of the 30 apartments were vacant or on monthly rentals, and  the owner agreed.

"The tenants were originally given 30 days’ notice, but KCU extended the closing by 60 days so that anyone who needed more time could have it," Alex said. "Before the sale the the university set up a 100K  escrow account to aid the transition of tenants as they found other housing, and they were all paid. My understanding is that everything was done legally and most of the residents moved into new apartments in the area."

Alex adds that KCU is donating two historic homes to the Pendleton Heights neighborhood and then donating the property the homes will sit on.

"KCU is trying its best to preserve history, help the neighborhood and build the kind of training needed for physicians of the future," Alex said. "We’ve found it’s difficult to satisfy everyone."