The ICSC Blog

CBL turns anchor space into high school for Tornado-stricken Joplin, Mo.

 

By Steve McLinden

One temporary tenant at Northpark Mall, in Joplin, Mo., is part of a rebirth from the natural calamities of last spring. In August this CBL & Associates property became home to Joplin High School’s new 11th and 12th grade campus, just three months after the deadliest U.S. tornado in 60 years ripped through the city. The storm killed 160 people and destroyed more than half of Joplin’s classroom space, including the sole public high school.

 

The unlikely idea of transforming part of a shopping mall into a high school took shape a few days after the storm. The school district knew that the vacant site was one of only a few spaces large enough for its 1,100 students.

“We were very eager to help the school district and the community after the storm,” said Sean Phillips, CBL’s regional marketing director. But there was an enormous challenge to be confronted first. The school would start in just 11 weeks, so approvals and plans would have to be fast-tracked, even before a massive cooperative effort could be orchestrated.

 

Once the permits were granted, there would be only 55 days during which to retrofit a 90,000-square-foot former Shopko plus part of the common area into a school facility. But contractors, designers and the community made the deadline with a few days to spare.

 

“The architects, CBL and everyone did an amazing job putting this together,” said Kerry Sachetta, the school’s principal. “Folks who walk in here now and look around would never think it was meant to be anything other than what it is.” The open-concept design includes movable walls and dry-erase boards, a laptop bar, a cafeteria, a fitness center and murals that feature Joplin High School’s eagle mascot, plus some modular classrooms and concrete-lined tornado shelters. The closed campus separates students from the rest of Northpark Mall with all its potential distractions. “We are on an end cap and not in the middle, so that made a big difference in addressing some of the challenges,” Sachetta said. Students use the fitness center for their phys-ed classes and travel by bus to and from a separate school building and an adjacent municipal facility.

 

There are other high schools that have taken over parts of former retail centers, but none to Sachetta’s knowledge that have leased space at an operating regional mall.

 

The August opening made the news not just locally and regionally, but also nationally and internationally. “The press turnout was incredible,” said Phillips. “We had to set up 15 areas for the media.” It was a highly emotional opening as well, he said. “A lot of these kids hadn’t seen each other since the tornado, which happened a half hour after senior graduation. A lot of them who’d lost their homes had to stay somewhere else all summer.”

 

Quinton Anderson, a Joplin High student who lost both parents in the tornado and spent nearly six weeks in the hospital recovering from storm-related injuries, was among those in attendance on opening day. He said in a YouTube video that the new location gave him peace of mind. “It’s good to know there’s a place I can go to the school,” he said. “Plus, it’s a lot nicer than the old place!”

 

Aid came in from all over the world. CBL malls and other centers throughout the Midwest organized fund drives, and singer Sheryl Crow donated $130,000 to Joplin schools after selling her vintage Mercedes. An unidentified donor from the United Arab Emirates gave the school $500,000 for laptop computers for all the students, making physical textbooks and lockers unnecessary.

 

The students and the mall stand to benefit from each other’s proximity. Under CBL’s new Joplin High Partnership, students can earn community-service hours for volunteering at the mall, and there is a business education program and job fairs aimed at hiring students for the holidays. Plans for an after-school student lounge at the mall entrance are in the works.

 

Of course, a side benefit for the mall is having 1,100 students on-site after school, plus the staff, volunteers and parents. “That’s not the most important thing in all of this,” said Barb Faucette, CBL’s vice president of corporate mall marketing. “But that exposure doesn’t hurt.”

 

FROM THE OCTOBER 2011 ISSUE OF SHOPPING CENTERS TODAY.

CBL turns anchor space into high school for Tornado-stricken Joplin, Mo.

 

By Steve McLinden

One temporary tenant at Northpark Mall, in Joplin, Mo., is part of a rebirth from the natural calamities of last spring. In August this CBL & Associates property became home to Joplin High School’s new 11th and 12th grade campus, just three months after the deadliest U.S. tornado in 60 years ripped through the city. The storm killed 160 people and destroyed more than half of Joplin’s classroom space, including the sole public high school.

 

The unlikely idea of transforming part of a shopping mall into a high school took shape a few days after the storm. The school district knew that the vacant site was one of only a few spaces large enough for its 1,100 students.

“We were very eager to help the school district and the community after the storm,” said Sean Phillips, CBL’s regional marketing director. But there was an enormous challenge to be confronted first. The school would start in just 11 weeks, so approvals and plans would have to be fast-tracked, even before a massive cooperative effort could be orchestrated.

 

Once the permits were granted, there would be only 55 days during which to retrofit a 90,000-square-foot former Shopko plus part of the common area into a school facility. But contractors, designers and the community made the deadline with a few days to spare.

 

“The architects, CBL and everyone did an amazing job putting this together,” said Kerry Sachetta, the school’s principal. “Folks who walk in here now and look around would never think it was meant to be anything other than what it is.” The open-concept design includes movable walls and dry-erase boards, a laptop bar, a cafeteria, a fitness center and murals that feature Joplin High School’s eagle mascot, plus some modular classrooms and concrete-lined tornado shelters. The closed campus separates students from the rest of Northpark Mall with all its potential distractions. “We are on an end cap and not in the middle, so that made a big difference in addressing some of the challenges,” Sachetta said. Students use the fitness center for their phys-ed classes and travel by bus to and from a separate school building and an adjacent municipal facility.

 

There are other high schools that have taken over parts of former retail centers, but none to Sachetta’s knowledge that have leased space at an operating regional mall.

 

The August opening made the news not just locally and regionally, but also nationally and internationally. “The press turnout was incredible,” said Phillips. “We had to set up 15 areas for the media.” It was a highly emotional opening as well, he said. “A lot of these kids hadn’t seen each other since the tornado, which happened a half hour after senior graduation. A lot of them who’d lost their homes had to stay somewhere else all summer.”

 

Quinton Anderson, a Joplin High student who lost both parents in the tornado and spent nearly six weeks in the hospital recovering from storm-related injuries, was among those in attendance on opening day. He said in a YouTube video that the new location gave him peace of mind. “It’s good to know there’s a place I can go to the school,” he said. “Plus, it’s a lot nicer than the old place!”

 

Aid came in from all over the world. CBL malls and other centers throughout the Midwest organized fund drives, and singer Sheryl Crow donated $130,000 to Joplin schools after selling her vintage Mercedes. An unidentified donor from the United Arab Emirates gave the school $500,000 for laptop computers for all the students, making physical textbooks and lockers unnecessary.

 

The students and the mall stand to benefit from each other’s proximity. Under CBL’s new Joplin High Partnership, students can earn community-service hours for volunteering at the mall, and there is a business education program and job fairs aimed at hiring students for the holidays. Plans for an after-school student lounge at the mall entrance are in the works.

 

Of course, a side benefit for the mall is having 1,100 students on-site after school, plus the staff, volunteers and parents. “That’s not the most important thing in all of this,” said Barb Faucette, CBL’s vice president of corporate mall marketing. “But that exposure doesn’t hurt.”

 

FROM THE OCTOBER 2011 ISSUE OF SHOPPING CENTERS TODAY.

 

 

Comments are closed.