First Hospital Hill Student Housing Bridges Kansas City’s Racial Dividing Line
Kansas City Mayor Sly James stood at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Hospital Hill Campus, with a background of the glimmering downtown skyline to the west and the campus’ first student apartments under construction to the east. Troost Avenue divided them.
“Soon, students will be moving back and forth from east to west and west to east,” said James at the UMKC Cornerstone Celebration for the $30 million student housing project on Troost Avenue between 24th and 25th streets. The 245-bed complex is scheduled to be finished by July 2014, in time for UMKC’s fall semester. A street-level pedestrian walkway from the apartments to campus will bridge both sides of Troost.
“This blends black and white, Latino and Latina, men, women, housing, education and work,” James said, before leading a group of about 200 city officials, UMKC faculty and staff, and community stakeholders to link arms, cross Troost and symbolically break the racial barrier that has stood for generations.
On the east side, under a tent, stood a poster of President Harry S. Truman with a quote from the speech he gave on campus in 1945 as the first UMKC honorary doctorate recipient: “This American nation of ours is great because of its diversity – because it is a people drawn from many lands and many cultures, bound together by the ideals of human brotherhood.”
UMKC owns two large pieces of limestone that were removed from the White House when it was being remodeled during the Truman Administration. For decades, they have been in storage. Soon, one of those stones will stand on UMKC’s Volker Campus and the other will stand on the Hospital Hill Campus, near the student housing in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
To complement the student housing, the city is spending close to $5 million to transform the look of Troost from 24th to 27th streets with landscaping and wider sidewalks. Additional development in the area is underway or proposed, including single-family housing, apartments, a health-oriented grocery store and boutique hotel.
“Beacon Hill has a history of starts and stops,” James said. But with student housing on the horizon for UMKC health professions students —from the School of Dentistry, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Health Studies and School of Pharmacy — the light is green for the foreseeable future.
Listen to what others had to say at the Cornerstone Celebration.
- “This is truly a historic day,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton. Earlier that day, Oct. 1, 2013, UMKC celebrated its 80th anniversary. “And when the apartments open, it will be another historic day. Students at Hospital Hill will get to sleep in and get to class on time.”
- “Today, we have more students living on campus, or within walking distance, than ever before,” said Benjamin Campero, president of the UMKC Student Government Association. “It’s more than just convenience. It’s about truly being a part of something. It’s the difference between a place you go to, versus a place you consider home. And starting next fall, our fellow students in the health professions schools here on Hospital Hill will know that feeling. They will know that reaching the crest of this hill isn’t just going to school. It’s coming home. That’s more than just fair. That’s essential.”
- “It is a wonderful sign of progress to look at things today: a medical campus setting with four health sciences schools, modern facilities and partner hospitals close by,” said Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri System president. “The only thing missing is a residence hall. Now it won’t be long before a spacious new apartment complex opens here. Students can live in the same neighborhood where they attend school and work.”
- “When we moved here in 2006 into an old Victorian, the neighborhood was thriving on a big idea,” said Tim Duggan, president of the Beacon Hill Homeowners’ Association. “This is a catalyst to make the idea happen.”
- “Now it is one city, one child, one family, one neighborhood,” said Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed.
- “This was long needed and we’re ready to go,” said Kansas City Councilwoman Melba Curls.
- “None of us would be where we are without essential partnerships,” said developer Hugh Zimmer, manager of Beacon Hill Developers, a partnership of Zimmer Real Estate Services, Dunn Realty and Taliaferro and Browne Real Estate that has been trying to develop the area for 10 years.
Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications.