By Steve Lackmeyer, The Oklahoman
In early January 2017, Rachel Freeman was looking at the John F. Kennedy neighborhood east of downtown to buy an empty lot and build a new home.
The property, however, was close to the historic Dunbar Elementary, closed by Oklahoma City Public Schools in 2010 and sold in 2015 to a buyer who promised to redevelop the property into senior apartments.
What Freeman initially didn't know — and what the Oklahoma City Public Schools board claimed not to know — was that they had sold the school to a representative of Ward Hall, whose family has a history of code violations and zoning disputes with municipalities throughout the metro area.
As Freeman looked at buying the empty lot and building her dream home, she learned the deal for Dunbar had collapsed and that the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority had revoked loans given to Hall for the project after concluding his only goal was to sell the property for a profit.
As the school stood empty, it was hit by a series of set fires and vandalism.
“I was really interested in what is going over there,” Freeman said. “But I was discouraged by this huge eyesore with no plans.”
Following a report by The Oklahoman in 2016 about the legacy of closed schools being sold to the highest bidder and the damage done to neighborhoods like John F. Kennedy, a discussion started between Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.