Abandoned school buildings can serve new purposes in communities, long after the students have left the classrooms. A school redevelopment initiative across the nation is taking closed schools, many shuttered due to aging infrastructure and changing demographics, and giving them new life.
Several cities have successfully redeveloped schools. Some good examples are Kansas City, Dallas and Detroit, where multiple vacant school buildings have been redeveloped into housing for seniors, affordable housing apartments, mixed-income residential projects, office space for nonprofits and community centers.
One creative reuse of a school building is the Kettering Urban Agricultural Campus in Detroit that repurposed a former high school. The campus is a sustainable farm with access to healthy foods, science and agriculture education and employment opportunities for the community.
The key to successfully redeveloping old schools involves a mix of public and private investments, matching the new development to market or neighborhood demand, a commitment to preserve and honor the school’s history and neighborhood and oversight to ensure the development progresses as stated.
In Oklahoma City, the redevelopment of the historic Page Woodson school is a great example of this. We have worked closely with developer Ron Bradshaw to ensure the property he purchased from the Oklahoma City Public School District is being developed into the intended affordable housing in a timely manner. With the property renamed The Douglass and The Douglass Next Door, after the school’s time as Douglass High School, tenants began moving in this month.
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