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Project File: Empty school building converted for office use

The original Independence High School, Independence, Mo., was erected in 1899. In 1996, administrators decided the building was inadequate and could not provide 21st-century educational opportunities. It had numerous deficiencies, including small classrooms; lack of outdoor space; outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; and inadequate accessibility. Newer facilities eventually replaced the building as an educational institution.

However, the district saw the building as too valuable, both historically and structurally, to abandon completely. It decided the building could be used to house its central administrative offices.

The building's interior was renovated with new electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. An interior elevator and a handicapped-accessible entrance from the back parking lot were added. Interior spaces were rearranged to provide appropriate offices for the district's administrative operation.

More than 50 people work in the offices, and the board of education uses the building as a meeting place. In addition, the city's parks and recreation department sponsors many events and activities that take place in the building's gymnasium, situated in the south wing. Plans are underway for the city to establish a Senior Nutrition Center in the building's former cafeteria, situated beneath the gym. The north wing remains in the same condition as it was in before renovation. The goal for this wing is to continue the restoration efforts as additional uses are finalized.

The architect for this project is ACI Boland/Frangkiser Hutchens (Grandview, Mo.).

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