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UMKC Seeks Conservatory Proposals, Potential Downtown Site Survives Close Call

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2 minute read

By Kevin Collison

UMKC officially has restarted its pursuit of a new combined Conservatory of Music and Dance and Theater Department facility, and has set a July 24 deadline for responses to what’s now described as a $100 million project.

The university released what’s called a request for interest (RFI) this week, and in an intriguing note, a potential new downtown site, Barney Allis Plaza, almost was disqualified at one point.

UMKC has outlined a broad area it will consider for a potential new Conservatory project. (Map from UMKC)

An earlier version of the UMKC request proposal had mandated any potential site be at least four acres.

That would have immediately bumped Barney Allis Plaza from consideration because the plaza covers about 3.3 acres.

A revised release was sent out the next day that said there would be no minimum size for the location.

“The reference to a four-acre minimum size for the site was based on an earlier draft of the RFI document; it is not a specification of the actual RFI,” according to a statement accompanying the revised press release.

Barney Allis Plaza has emerged as a potential downtown location for the Conservatory project, according to sources familiar with the plan.

In 2012, it was one of three potential sites for what was then called a UMKC Downtown Arts Campus in a study done by Helix Architecture + Design and HGA.

The original Downtown UMKC Conservatory proposal, which would have been located on land immediately south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, collapsed in January.

That’s when Julia Irene Kauffman withdrew her $20 million pledge, the foundation of its private funding. She was responding to a veto last summer by Gov. Eric Greitens of what was to have been $48 million in matching state assistance.

That block southeast of 17th and Broadway across from the Kauffman Center is no longer available for the project, according to sources.

In its new RFI, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is casting a wide net, saying it will consider proposals ranging from downtown on the north to 63rd street on the south, between State Line Road and Forest Avenue on the east.

It also said a site on the UMKC Volker Campus would be considered as well.

UMKC is seeking proposals for a facility that would include 225,000- to 250,000 square feet and have a dedicated parking lot or garage with 300 spaces.

“The RFI process will help us determine where the new facility should be located,” Interim Chancellor and Provost Barbara A. Bichelmeyer said in a statement.

“A downtown campus may be our best solution, if we find strong academic reasons to build there and the resources to pay for it.

“If there is an existing building in a viable location that can be re-purposed at a much lower cost than new construction, then that may be our best option. Otherwise, we will locate the new facility on campus.”

A 2012 study for what was then called the UMKC Downtown Arts Campus identified Barney Allis Plaza as a potential site. (Image from Helix/HGA

Raising the private money to help pay for what’s now billed as a $100 million project may be challenging.

Rep. Noel Shull, a Republican representing suburban Clay County, has introduced a bill that would provide $50 million in state funding for a UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance project.

His bill however, refers to the project being built on the UMKC campus, and does not mention downtown.

It is not known whether Julie Irene Kauffman, who’s initial pledge spearheaded the private fundraising effort, would be willing to renew her offer and if so, where she would prefer the facility be built.

Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.

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