In a Nutshell
What: With real estate support from IFF, KIPP KC recently completed the construction of a new facility that will serve as the permanent home of the public charter school system’s Legacy High School.
Location: Kansas City, MO
Size: 37,154 square feet
Cost: $16.8 million
Funding and Financing Sources: Owner’s equity, Self-Help Ventures Fund, Low Income Investment Fund
IFF Support: Owner’s representative
IFF Staff Lead: LaMar Miller, Director of Real Estate Solutions – Southern Region
Design: Multistudio (formerly Gould Evans)
General Contractor: McCownGordon Construction
Impact: 210 student seats created, enabling Legacy High School to expand from grades 9 and 10 to grades 9-12.
For two years since its launch in 2021, KIPP KC’s Legacy High School has made do, operating first on the campus of the public charter school system’s K-8 school and later in a Boys and Girls Club facility that served as a makeshift home after quickly outgrowing its original space. This August, however, Legacy High School’s students will return from their summer break to a new, 37,154-square-foot facility built specifically for them – designed to not only offer a high-quality venue for learning, but to send a message that students don’t have to leave their community to access quality secondary education that prepares them for college and for life.
“One of our biggest goals in building a permanent location for Legacy High School was for students to be able to start school with us in kindergarten and stay with us until they leave for college,” says Scorpio Horn, KIPP KC’s director of development. “And from start to finish, they’ll be able to learn in beautiful, state-of-the-art buildings that give them the best opportunity to succeed.”
Founded in 2007, KIPP KC is part of a national network of tuition-free, open-enrollment public charter schools with a track record of providing high-quality education in underserved communities. KIPP KC opened its first school, KIPP Endeavor Academy, in 2007 with 31 fifth-grade students. With real estate support from IFF and two loans totaling $3 million, KIPP KC purchased and renovated a permanent facility for Endeavor Academy in 2017. Now, with Legacy High School’s new, permanent facility, KIPP KC will serve more than 800 students annually – offering a safe, structured, and nurturing environment with high academic standards and a focus on social and emotional learning.
Located on a 1.7-acre campus in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood, the new Legacy High School includes 20 classrooms; a high-end gymnasium with video boards and a sound system; an adaptable cafetorium where large numbers of students, teachers, and staff can gather; two teacher touchdown areas; multiple office and flex spaces; learning pods, conference rooms, and a dedicated nurse’s office.
In addition to supporting the continued growth of Legacy High School during the next two school years as the school expands from freshmen and sophomores only to grades 9-12 – with enrollment expected to reach capacity with roughly 420 students in 2024 – the two-story facility will offer students a variety of spaces to gain new experiences that weren’t possible in its temporary locations. Examples include a fully equipped chemistry lab for science classes, performing arts opportunities in the flexible cafetorium, and a more robust athletics program now that the school has its own gym and teams won’t have to travel to other schools for practices and all their games. These new opportunities to become fully immersed in the high school experience will be beneficial for students, but they’ll also help build a stronger community within the school as parents and loved ones will be able to attend special events and games far more easily than they have in the past.
“Opening the new Legacy High School is about KIPP KC honoring its word and following through on a promise to our student body that we’d create a space for them that’s all their own.”
“Opening the new Legacy High School is about KIPP KC honoring its word and following through on a promise to our student body that we’d create a space for them that’s all their own,” says Michael Cobbins, the school’s athletic director and one of KIPP KC’s longest tenured employees. “We take pride in the fact that, with this new campus, we’re going to be able to offer our kids more ways to get involved with activities that add to their experience and their families more opportunities to come to the school to support their children in whatever they’re involved in.”
Toward that end, KIPP KC prioritized finding a location for Legacy High School’s permanent campus near its K-8 school to make it as easy as possible for students and their families to transition from Endeavor Academy to the high school. That goal was achieved by purchasing a lot just two miles from KIPP KC’s original school, with the added benefit of reactivating an underutilized property and adding quality high school seats to a community with a documented shortage based on the population in the area. Prior to acquiring the property and proceeding with the development of the new school, KIPP KC engaged the local neighborhood association to ensure that its plans aligned with that of community stakeholders.
“The ZIP code where Legacy High School is located needs far more quality K-12 student seats, which made it a good fit for us,” says KIPP KC Executive Director Jana Cooper. “We also met with the neighborhood association, and they were really excited about the new school because of the investment it brought to the area.”
Following several years of planning, that investment ultimately totaled $16.8 million for the development of Legacy High School’s campus, which KIPP KC funded through a mix of its own capital and loans from Self-Help Ventures Fund and Low Income Investment Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with which IFF collaborates regularly. Level Field Partners served as a consultant for KIPP KC, helping the school with early phase planning and with the assembly of the capital stack for the project.
“It’s important for our young women and young men to leave Legacy High School with the tools they need to be successful in life, and to know that whatever they put their minds to, they can achieve.”
As with its previous development project for Endeavor Academy, KIPP KC engaged IFF’s Real Estate Solutions team to help guide the organization through the construction process – this time as its owner’s representative. Support provided to the school included confirming the final project budget, overseeing the development of architectural plans, securing necessary permits and licenses for construction, and more during the predevelopment phase; assisting with contract negotiations with project team members; overseeing the construction of the new school on KIPP KC’s behalf; and coordinating a comprehensive inspection of the completed facility and securing a certificate of occupancy, among other tasks to close out the project. The project was led by Multistudio (formerly Gould Evans), which engaged McCownGordon Construction to serve as the general contractor under a design/build contract.
Now just weeks from welcoming students through the doors of the new Legacy High School, KIPP KC is looking ahead. Among its longer-term goals is to increase the size of the campus and to add amenities like a parking lot that will make the school more accessible for students and ensure KIPP KC can further lean into its vision to equip every student with the skills and resources needed to create the future they want for themselves and their communities.
“It’s important for our young women and young men to leave Legacy High School with the tools they need to be successful in life, and to know that whatever they put their minds to, they can achieve,” says Horn. “That’s always been the goal, and now we have a building and a campus that will help them become their very best.”