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Arts & Life

KC Council Approves $7 Million In Funding For UMKC Conservatory

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courtesy Helix Architecture and Design, Inc.

Updated: On Thursday, the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for the University of Missouri-Kansas City's downtown campus for the arts. This brings the fundraising total to $48 million, and UMKC will be eligible to seek matching state funds for the $96 million project. 

City Councilman Scott Taylor, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, said, "We felt it was important to send a message to Jefferson City that Kansas City, Missouri is behind this project 100 percent and anything we can do to expedite their decision in getting the matching funds we want to do that."

Original post follows: 

University of Missouri-Kansas City's proposed downtown campus for the arts got a boost on Wednesday from the Kansas City Council. 

The Council's Planning, Zoning and Economic Development committee voted 4 to 0 to recommend $7 million in funding for land and public infrastructure in support of a new facility for the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 

The project was identified in September 2011 as one of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce's Big Five projects. And, in 2013, UMKC started fundraising with help from a challenge grant, a $20 million gift from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation

City Manager Troy Schulte said city officials began conversations with UMKC early in the fundraising efforts.

"We recognize that we have been a partner in most every philanthropic or civic commitment done by the city," said Schulte, who mentioned, for example, that the city built the Kauffman Center's parking garage and contributed its property at a cost of $62 million. "Most of the civic improvement projects that have been accomplished by the city over the last 100 years have had civic involvement by the city of Kansas City."

Councilwoman Katheryn Shields has toured the Conservatory, with classrooms, practice rooms, and performance spaces in three different buildings on the Volker campus. 

"It's time for a change. They're too small, and they're out of date," Shields said. "I can't think of anything better than investing $7 million to get $96 million. And so I stand wholeheartedly in support of this resolution." 

According to city documents, UMKC has raised $41 million in private funds for the $96 million project. City funding would increase the total to $48 million, which would make the project eligible for matching funds from the state of Missouri. 

"It's a contingent funding issue because they still have a pretty big lift to make down in Jefferson City," said Schulte. "But I think if they show the resilience and the perseverance in the private fundraising, they will eventually be successful."   

Schulte anticipates the $7 million in city funding would be available after paying off debt. "We'll deal with the funding as it comes forward," he said. 

The full City Council will take up the issue on Thursday. 

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