Thursday, September 3, 2015

Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013

Mill Creek site comes off the market as school district launches new plan

Special to The Star

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An Olathe church’s attempt to revitalize the city’s first high school has been shot down, but the property, now known as Mill Creek Center, will be renovated anyway.

The Olathe School Board recently rejected a bid from General Springs of Kansas City, which had planned to buy the property — minus the vocational building — and donate it to Faith Journey Church. Now officials say they will renovate the property for school district programs.

Faith Journey currently worhips in the Great Mall of the Great Plains and it had hoped to renovate the main building at Mill Creek Center as its new home. It also wanted to work with community organizations to offer services such as a food pantry, family counseling and sports programs.

General Springs’ $650,000 bid for the property, however, was deemed too far below the most recent appraisal value of $1 million. So the school board rejected the bid and decided to take the property off the market so it can revitalize the former school itself. The buildings will be used for the district’s alternative programs.

It was the only option that made sense, said John Hutchison, chief financial operations officer for the Olathe School District, because the property is historically significant and will help the district’s rapid growth.

The main building was constructed in 1926 as John P. St. John High School and in 1957 it became Olathe Junior High. Over the next several decades, it saw numerous construction and renovation projects.

Two years ago, the main building was vacated, but vocational programs remained on the complex.

Now, the main building will house the district’s alternative programs, such as adult education and off-campus learning.

“As part of the planning for the 2013 bond issue, it became clear there needed to be space for the district’s alternative programs,” Hutchison said. “Although we didn’t find room for it in the 2013 bond, the need didn’t go away. So, we decided to reevaluate the Mill Creek building and determine how to properly renovate the space to fit our current needs.”

The school district is now working with an architect to determine how to utilize the main building’s classroom space and what steps need to be taken towards renovation.

The news of the district’s plan was bittersweet for Faith Journey Church.

“We were disappointed in the decision the school board reached in choosing not to sell Mill Creek,” said senior pastor Michael Downs. “We wish the school board would have kept to the original plan of selling the facility. At the same time, we are excited about the plan they have to revitalize the Mill Creek Center and make it vibrant for our downtown community.”

Now that it has lost out on Mill Creek, the church is back to square one, searching for another affordable venue.

“The Mill Creek Center was perfect for what we were attempting to do with all the community and ministry partners coming together,” Downs said. “We believe the plan is still right for our city and much needed. The groups are still hopeful in finding something that works for all the dreams we have to serve our city.”

But a solution will not be easy, he said. It might be a long time before another opportunity like Mill Creek Center comes along again.

“The challenge is that the upfront money involved in purchasing a place or the costs associated in leasing a space big enough would be beyond our budget,” Downs said. “We really need a miracle of a space so that we can help provide miracles for years to the people in and around downtown Olathe.”

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