Kansas City’s first black hospital to be redeveloped after decades of disrepair

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some local developers are breathing new life into Kansas City’s first black hospital.

Wheatley-Provident Hospital, on Forest Avenue, opened in 1918 and closed in 1972 due to declining admissions.

“We want to have something that brings vibrancy back to this corner,” said Erika Brice, who is one of the new co-owners of the property.

The space was used as a haunted house in the 1990s but has sat vacant for more than two decades, giving way for overgrown weeds, piles of trash and countless graffiti.

“Our goal is to use it as some kind of nexus or something to spur additional development on this side (east) of 18th and Vine,” said Brice, who has family who were born at the hospital.

Brice and her partners, Shomari Benton and Michael Edmondson, plan to pour an estimated $2.5 million dollars into rehabbing the property. They want to maintain the structure of the building, adding that the space needs to “make sense” in the area.

“Ideally, maybe it’ll be some sort of office-use space, a school, medical space or maybe house art,” said Brice. “We’re really open. We just want to make sure that we’re respectful of the history that came through here.”

Brice said building Wheatley-Provident in the 1900s was “truly a community effort.”

Michael Adams knows that all to well because his great-grandmother, Clara Adams, was instrumental in bringing the hospital to the neighborhood.

“She helped raise a lot of money and she was consulted during the initial processes,” said Adams. “It’s kind of remarkable the things the African American community in Kansas City could get accomplished during segregation.”

He said his great-grandmother would have never wanted to see the hospital in the condition it’s in today but believes she would be happy to see development in the area.

“18th and Vine was a whole community, not just an entertainment district, so it means a lot,” said Adams.

Brice and her partners are working to get the building off the city’s dangerous buildings list; they’ve fast-tracked that process by buying the property. They’re still deciding on when construction will begin but expects it will take eight months to complete.

To follow the progress of Wheatley-Provident Hospital, follow this Instagram page.