UMKC marches forward on $96M Downtown Campus for the Arts

Dance studios at the future UMKC Conservatory of Music & Dance will face the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and have views of the Crossroads Arts District.

A plan to bring 700 students to the Crossroads Arts District is moving forward.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has hit its $48 million fundraising target for bringing its Conservatory for Music & Dance to the corner of 18th and Broadway, just across from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Now, leaders behind the Downtown Campus for the Arts plan are going to the Missouri Legislature to ask for a 50-50 funding match through a program that funds capital projects at public colleges and universities through public-private partnerships.

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators approved the university’s request in June. If it's approved by the state, will allow for a state-of-the-art practice and classroom space directly across from the world renown Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

This 250-seat performance hall will be made with special soundproof glass that will still allow for a perfect view of the inspiration for the campus.

The project has been named one of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce's “Big 5” goals, which is a title given to community-based projects that promise to “bring better health, improved education, more jobs, increased investment and a better quality of life to everyone in the region."

Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory of Music and Dance at UMKC, updated the members of KC Downtowners on the progress of $96 million project. The four-story building will sit on the southeast corner of 18th and Broadway and will include a 250-seat performance hall, a choral rehearsal room, two dance studios and a 100 seat recital hall that will be used to host more than 300 events a year.

The building was designed with a nod to the Kauffman. The performance hall, rehearsal room, and dance studios feature tall, special soundproof glass windows that face the performing arts center to the north. But on the south side of the building, Witte says the building will have a more "jeans and jazz" feel, where students will take advantage of a courtyard area where special events and performances will take place.

The campus will attract about 700 students between the age of 18 and 35 to the corner of 18th and Broadway.

With its prime location in the heart of the creative district and just a mile and a half from the historic 18th and Vine jazz district, the Downtown Campus for the Arts will seek to incorporate the culture of the downtown and Crossroads districts into the curriculum. The Conservatory seeks to enroll over 600 undergraduate and graduate students, ranging in age from 18 to 35, anticipating that the campus will bring a much needed presence to downtown on its slower nights.

Witte says that while the KC Symphony, Ballet, and other neighborhood festivities take center stage on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the Conservatory will create a buzz in the earlier part of the week, bringing life to the area on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That's fantastic news for area retailers and restaurants.

“We’ll bring those 600 families, out of town mothers and fathers and siblings who will stay at hotels and look down at the Kauffman Center and plan their week," he said. "You’ll start to see, if you’re a restaurant or retailer, that there’s that much more activity coming downtown.”  

With an anticipated three year build, the estimated completion date of the Downtown Campus for the Arts is 2020. The design team includes Helix Architecture + Design and HGA.

“I’d like to thank you, the companies you represent, the foundations you represent and just you as citizens for helping sending the message to Missouri that the arts matter that this is the right project for Kansas City, that it will augment our existing investments and that increasingly this is the right thing to do for Missouri,” Witte said.