Urban Planning studio presents plans for repurposing empty Kansas City, Mo. school buildings

Public presentation takes place Dec. 16

In March of 2010, in response to a $50 million budget shortfall, the Kansas City, Missouri School District (KCMSD) voted to close 26 of its 61 schools. Almost a year later, those buildings – and about 15 other former school buildings – sit vacant, some in serious disrepair. In an effort to repurpose the buildings, the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design (AUP+D) fourth-year Urban Planning and Design Studio is developing a strategic plan that they will present to the public at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16 in 101 Katz Hall, 5005 Rockhill Rd. Following is a link to the plan: http://www.umkc.edu/news/announcements/UMKC_KCMSD_Guidebook_2011web.pdf.

“We chose this project because it’s very complex, topical and important to the community,” said Vicki Noteis, AIA and fourth-year studio instructor. “We hope the community will see the big picture instead of focusing on just one building. People need to have the sense that they’re all in this together, instead of feeling like they’re isolated. They need ideas and information.”

From their spacious, new sunlit studio in Katz Hall, Urban Planning and Design students have covered every surface with statistics, maps and sketches. For about 20 to 30 hours each week, students have focused on the following projects:

  • Review of History, Context and Existing Conditions: Students became familiar with the broad historic and contextual issues that formed the KCMSD and led to its current condition. Using information from speakers, site visits and reading material, students presented a KCMSD facility overview to faculty and the Studio Advisory Group, which includes a city planner, KCMSD advisory board member, American Institute of Architects president and Urban League of Greater Kansas City president.
  • Data Review and Analysis: For a month, students collected, reviewed and analyzed KCMSD data. They developed a summary of building conditions, a list of facilities on the National Register of Historic Places, a demographics map and an understanding of existing city plans.
  • Development of Strategic Alternatives for District Decision-Making: Next, students conducted a planning charette – a final, intensive effort to finish an architectural design project – and presented pertinent data to the Studio Advisory Group.
  • Design a Community Engagement Process: Then, students investigated best practices for engaging the community, attended planning project meetings and met with local experts, neighborhood leaders and activists.
  • Refine KCMSD Guidebook for Repurposing Strategy: With input from the Studio Advisory Group, students selected the most promising strategic concept from the planning charette. For six weeks, students created a guidebook to assist the KCMSD in decision-making and implementation of a five-year building repurposing strategy.

As a Studio Advisory Group member, Troy Nash – vice president and director of Public Sector Consulting at Zimmer Real Estate Services, LC and past KCMO city council member – hopes he can provide students with a “real world” experience and advice.

“This studio allows students to take what they learn in class beyond the theoretical framework,” Nash said. “AUP+D is really helping Kansas City by providing solutions that are grounded in sound urban development principles. Coupled with the urban focus of the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, School of Law and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Economics, AUP+D enhances UMKC’s standing as a useful community partner.”

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit http://www.umkc.edu/. You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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