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Arts & Life

Finalists Selected, Design Process Starts For UMKC's Proposed Downtown Arts Campus

courtesy: University of Missouri-Kansas City

Five architect teams are on the short list to design the first phase of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s proposed downtown arts campus.

The finalists include Kansas City-based firms BNIM, el dorado, Helix, Hoefer Wysocki and International Architect Atelier, each teamed with national architecture firms. 

The initial stage of the project calls for relocating the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance -- students, faculty, classes, and most performances -- to the Crossroads Arts District. 

In May, UMKC officials announced a "dream site," an 80,000 square foot tract of land, just south of the Kauffman Center. The site is a full city block and is bordered by Broadway and Central, and 17th and 18th Streets. Anonymous donors, working with the Downtown Council, assembled the parcels and arranged for the purchase of the land.

Bob Simmons, associate vice chancellor of administration at UMKC, says a design concept is the next step. 

"I think that's really what experience shows on projects like this," says Simmons. "For many people that are visual thinkers, they really need to get a sense of, 'What is the facility going to look like?'"

Starting this Thursday, the teams will collaborate with UMKC students on what's described as an Urban Design Charette, a professional training exercise. Such sessions usually take anywhere from two to seven days, says Jacob Wagner, associate professor of Urban Planning and Design and director of Urban Studies at UMKC.

"A series of teams compete to basically try to solve the same design problem," Wagner says. "The process will be an intensive way to look at the challenges of connecting the university community more closely to the city, and in particular, to the area in and around the existing Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Crossroads."

In this case, the teams will have three days to prepare concepts, options, and ideas to present to the public on Sunday. 

David Dowell is a principal at el dorado, one of the Kansas City architecture firms in the running. Five UMKC students, with majors in dance, music, architecture, and urban planning, will be working closely with his team. 

The students are the "user group," Dowell says. They met last week and he says the students have been very candid.

"They're more than willing to ask the questions that lead to innovation and really understanding where this project might go to make it one of the top-notch conservatory facilities in the country," he says. 

The first phase is estimated to cost $96 million, including construction and land. UMKC officials expect to raise half this amount, $48 million, from private sources, and ask the state to match it.

To date, UMKC had raised $27 million. This includes a $20 million challenge grant from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation.

Future phases of the project could also move other university arts departments and programming to downtown Kansas City, Mo. 



  • Kickoff reception, Thursday, Sept. 11, 5:30 - 8 pm, ArtsKC, 106 Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Team presentations, Sunday, Sept.14, 2 to 5 pm, Greater KC Chamber Board Room in Union Station, 30 Pershing Rd., Kansas City, Mo.

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