Before: Front Exterior

Make It Right, the foundation started by actor Brad Pitt and architect William McDonough to rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, has partnered with BNIM Architects to transform a former school in Kansas City, Missouri, into LEED Platinum-certified affordable housing. The Bancroft School Apartments, which opened last month, are a showcase for high-quality sustainable development and community-driven urban renewal.

Located in the long-distressed Manheim Park neighborhood, the complex provides fifty rental units and a host of other services that include job training facilities, a medical center, an auditorium and a gym. New townhomes built around the school’s perimeter offer additional housing. “This project was born out of the neighborhood in which it is located,” says Bob Berkebile, a founding principal of BNIM. “It provides the amenities that residents have identified as their top priorities.”

A 75-kilowatt solar array on the building’s roof, occupancy sensors to manage energy consumption, Cradle-to-Cradle flooring systems, and energy-efficient windows all contribute to the project’s LEED Platinum rating as well as to energy cost savings that are passed down to Bancroft residents. When designing the interior, BNIM was careful to preserve the building’s historic features: Large classroom windows create open, light-filled living spaces, the existing trim remains largely intact and the original oak floors were restored wherever possible.

The 103-year-old Bancroft school, which sat abandoned since 1999, is now a driver of redevelopment in a neighborhood that has suffered for decades. The investment in this community has created jobs, led to reductions in crime, and inspired area residents to reclaim their neighborhood block by block.

There are “real, measurable metrics on positive revitalization when you engage the community in these efforts in a trusting manner,” says Tim Duggan, director of Make It Right’s Innovations department. “We call this ‘urban acupuncture,’ transforming the focal point in a blighted neighborhood into a catalyst for redevelopment. And we believe this can be a model for communities around the country.”