New Gifts to UMKC Downtown Arts Campus Bring Project within $10 Million of Goal

Three new gifts totaling $4.5 million add momentum and excitement as project approaches June fundraising deadline

Three new gifts totaling $4.5 million have brought plans for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Downtown Campus for the Arts significantly closer to fruition.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation today announced these major gifts pledged to the long-awaited project, one of the “Big Five” top civic priorities established by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce:

  • $3 million gift from an anonymous donor
  • $1 million from the R. Crosby Kemper Charitable Trust and Foundation
  • $500,000 from the Francis Family Foundation, contingent on appropriation of state of Missouri matching funds

Including these latest gifts, the project now has garnered private support totaling $38 million. The university needs to raise a total of $48 million in private funds by June 30 in order to approach the state of Missouri for matching funds to cover the $96 million cost of the project’s first phase. Phase 1 will house the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, replacing a collection of outdated and spread-out facilities on the Volker campus with state-of-the-art practice and classroom space in close proximity to Kansas City’s booming professional arts scene.

A downtown campus has been a dream for UMKC for many years. But the university got serious about looking into it in 2011 when the Chamber named the project one of its “Big 5” ideas.

The project has garnered broad-based support from the Kansas City community, beginning in 2013 with a $20 million challenge gift from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. In 2014, a group of anonymous donors pledged prime downtown real estate for the project — a full city block bounded by Broadway, Central, 17th and 18th streets.

The site is directly south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a juxtaposition that will put UMKC’s program in line with other great centers of arts education, including Juilliard, which is part of Lincoln Center in New York, and the New England Conservatory, which is located near Symphony Hall in Boston.

“The university is grateful to these extremely generous donors, who have joined many others to demonstrate the broad and deep support for this project and move the dream so close to reality,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “We are now within sight of reaching our goal, and I am looking forward to a great celebration when we achieve that milestone this year.”

Conservatory Dean Peter Witte expressed gratitude to all the donors, noting that the Downtown Arts Campus has now raised more funds than any other single project in UMKC history.

“A downtown campus for UMKC’s Conservatory places current and future students in the heart of a championship city. Our presence will further catalyze Kansas City’s reputation as a 21st century arts hub,” Witte said. “Whether dancing on stage at the Kauffman, playing the Blue Room, creating new works, or teaching our children, Conservatory alumni and faculty focus international attention on Missouri and our city. Imagine what’s ahead.”

Tom Wood, Trustee of the Kemper Trust, cited the Conservatory’s long history as a premiere institution.

“The Conservatory of Music and Dance at UMKC has been one of the most diverse Music and Dance education centers in the Midwest since the early 1900s. The trustees of the Kemper Foundations at UMB are excited to be a part of the many supporters of the new vision for The Conservatory, downtown across the street from The Kauffman Center for Performing Arts,” Wood said. “This is a great opportunity to enrich the histories of both the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and the City of Kansas City. The synergy of this move downtown will create its own great future for the next 100 years.”

Relocating the Conservatory’s 750 students, faculty and staff downtown also has the advantage of infusing downtown with a new level of activity and vibrancy. The campus’ daily, daytime activity will complement the high level of nighttime, event-driven activity in the Crossroads district, and the student contingent would be a population of young adults that would constantly renew and never grow old.

The new campus also will satisfy accrediting organizations by almost tripling the square footage of the Conservatory, making room for additional students to study there, and freeing up much-needed space on the landlocked Volker campus for other academic disciplines. The campuses will remain connected; Conservatory students will continue to take non-music classes at Volker and will continue to perform there.

An economic impact study by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) estimated that the economic activity associated with the construction of the arts campus and reuse of the Volker campus would average, at minimum, approximately 409 jobs, $30.8 million in real GDP, and $22.9 million in real disposable personal income per year over 25 years. Of these impacts, a little more than half result from the construction itself, with the rest generated by the expansion of arts and other educational programs at UMKC.

UMKC has selected the design team of Helix Architecture + Design and HGA Architects and Engineers to proceed with the programming and concept design process.

The UMKC Foundation, launched in 2009, is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves as the official fundraising and fund management organization for UMKC.

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