City says not much can be done about historic Sumner School

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Ward-Meade neighborhood association says the city is telling them not much can be done to force action from the owners of a historic school building in Topeka.

The Sumner school building at 4th and Western, is on the national historic register because of its role in the Brown vs Board of Education case.

People who live near the school say the building is falling apart, and the owners are not doing anything about it.

"There was another act of vandalism that occurred at the school where the iconic weather vane was stolen," said Deborah Edwards, President of the Neighborhood Improvement Association.

That's just the latest incident at the old Sumner School. Bare wires remain where lights once hung. Boarded up windows and spray paint.

Edwards went to Interim City Manager Doug Gerber to see what pressure could be put on the owners, who promised to turn it into a community center when they bought the property in 2009.

"Unfortunately, the legal opinion of the city is that there's nothing they can really do," she said.

Gerber said in a written statement, "The City would like to work collaboratively with the owners of the school and come to an agreement on how we can preserve this historic building and resolve the situation."

The building is owned by Southside Christian Palace Church, based out of Los Angeles, California. We contacted the church, but our calls were not returned.

"There are people here in the city who've stepped forward and said they would buy it with the intent of mothballing it while a plan was worked out of putting different entities into the building," Edwards explained.

She says one of those people, Advisors XL Co-Founder Cody Foster. His staff said Foster is traveling for work and could not comment, but Edwards says Foster is willing to buy the building for what the church paid. $89,000.

Edwards says the poor condition of the building is lowering property values and causing safety concerns.