Imagination at the Crossroads

Harison Pitchford, right, is the 2014 winner of the Bud Prize. Photo by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

AUP+D students visualize downtown campus and surroundings

Imagine a walkable urban neighborhood in the shadow of an interstate freeway, with winding paths through grassy hillsides and urban alleys transformed into lively, vehicle-free pedestrian arteries lined with storefronts and cafes.

Picture a low-rise mixed-use building incorporating a musician supply store, café and apartments at the corner of 17th and Baltimore, a structure of glass and steel designed to contrast with – and echo the inner skeletons of – surrounding brick buildings.

Contemplate a community alive with activity day and night, pulsing with music and art, with a growing population drawn by amenities that range from a child care center and grocery store to nightclubs with frequent live performances by students and professionals.

As the administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has been raising funds for creation of a Downtown Campus for the Arts, students in the university’s Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design have been working on plans to maximize the development’s value as a neighborhood and community asset.

Students in their second, third and fourth years of the program have all focused their studio work for the semester on the proposed campus. The process began with a design charrette on September 1, when students from all three studio sections worked side by side with local and national firms in an intense charrette process. From there, students in three different classes took on different but related projects based in the neighborhood surrounding the future site of the university’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Planning for the Kauffman Center included new height restrictions for surrounding blocks, to preserve the view of the sensational architecture of the center. Students took those height restrictions and other relevant city ordinances into consideration when preparing their concepts and designs.

“We’ll learn what can happen, or what may happen, in the blocks immediately surrounding the UMKC site,” Prof. Michael Frisch told the audience assembled to view the concepts students developed for areas south, east and west of the future home of the Conservatory.

These were students in Urban Planning + Design Studio I, who are exploring the opportunities and constraints of site planning and urban design in those areas. Introducing the presentations, Frisch said the students studied how the basic site-plan “footprint” of the neighborhood changed between 1940 and the present day, including the enormous impact of the construction of I-35, essentially cutting off blocks on Kansas City’s West Side from the rest of the community, and triggering a population decline of 90 percent.

All of the student presentations focused on amenities that would help repopulate the neighborhood. Walkability and human scale were key themes that permeated most of the presentations. Students spoke of blending active areas for commerce and interaction, with quiet zones for study and reflection; discussed the pros and cons of closing certain streets to vehicle traffic during daylight hours; the need to preserve historic Film Row buildings; and the value of outdoor seating for sidewalk cafes to help bring the neighborhood to life.

Students in the Second Year Architectural Studies Studio focused on a hypothetical mixed-use retail and residential development on the corner of 17th & Baltimore. The program includes a musical instrument and accessory store, a café/coffee bar, and five student apartments. In that studio, students vied for the annual Bud Prize, a $1,000 scholarship established in 2004 with Helix / Architecture + Design to honor Edwin S. “Bud” Persons, who was a Senior Interior Architect with Helix.

The winning design, created by student Harison Pitchford, was focused on natural lighting throughout the various sections of the building to create “an inviting and extroverted space along the street.”

Introducing the student designs, Prof. John Eck noted that they had to contend with a significant slope at the site, currently a surface parking lot. Jurors’ compliments on other designs included the “dynamic social setting” crated by outdoor seating for the café in student Chelsea Bainbridge’s design; and the interior circulation for the apartments placed in a glass-enclosed “spine” for the building by student Alyssa Sackman.

Students in Urban Planning + Design Studio III continued the planning work associated with the Performing Arts Campus with a semester-long project to create a comprehensive plan for the project that sought to answer these questions:  How will this campus be integrated into and enhance three communities – institutional, professional and public – both physically and programmatically?

Introduced by Adjunct Faculty Dave Knopick and Vanessa Spartan, the students conducted a three-hour public open house where they presented and discussed a vision that “goes beyond the building,” considering how the new Conservatory building and an influx of students can create a catalyst for change in the neighborhood.

Guided by the Think Tank, a project steering committee, the UMKC Downtown Campus Neighborhood Plan aims to facilitate creativity within the diverse atmosphere of the Crossroads. The new Conservatory is a vital element in the neighborhood plan; however, it is one piece to the puzzle. The vision for the new campus is “The UMKC Conservatory must not only be an asset for students and the university, but the community as a whole, it must incubate diversity, as diversity is the backbone of urban life and art.”

Drawing upon these concepts, the vision for the neighborhood plan is to “Create an eclectic physical environment that supports diverse experiences within a safe, connected, and affordable community for all.” Their group vision focused on creating an east-west cultural corridor along 17th and 18th Streets connecting the Westside Neighborhood, the Crossroads, and the 18th and Vine District.

The site for the UMKC Performing Arts Campus covers a full city block bounded by Broadway, Central, 17th and 18th streets, directly south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The UMKC effort represents a multi-decade plan that was identified as one of the top civic priorities for the region by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Phase I of the plan calls for moving the Conservatory to the site; more than $30 million has already been raised for the effort.

| John Martellaro, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

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