Agrawal says UMKC needs to become a residential campus

In February of 2018, Mauli Agrawal became UMKC’s new chancellor. He had many ambitious plans for the school he was coming to lead. Over a year later, and this still hasn’t changed.

“This city is poised for the future,” said Agrawal.

After speaking with the U-News staff last Thursday about his plans for UMKC, Agrawal seems ready for UMKC’s future himself, with hopes to fix Oak Place Apartments and rehabilitate Epperson House.

As U-News staff asked questions about a variety of campus issues, Agrawal revealed his plans to address them, as well as his hopes for the university going into the next decade.

He detailed many ambitious goals, including a 50 percent increase in the number of enrolled students, a key component to his 10-year strategic plan. Director of Media Relations John Martellaro had stressed in the past that this was a “ballpark figure,” but Agrawal doubled-down on the statement.

“Fifty percent. Five-zero, over the next 10 years,” Agrawal said.

Along with enrollment, Agrawal listed affordable student housing as one of the biggest challenges facing the school. With increasing student enrollment comes the need for a larger infrastructure to support them, said Agrawal.

From new parking garages, to shops, to living spaces, he outlined what the university needed in order to support its bold plan to grow.

To the chancellor, these efforts to create affordable housing for students are also to fulfill the wishes of students.

He recounted a time in which he asked several students what he could do for them as chancellor.

According to Agrawal, they told him, “We don’t quite care for a commuter-school feel, can you make this a full-campus experience for us?”

Agrawal took this to heart. He spoke of making UMKC a more traditional, residential campus where “student activities are going on from daybreak past midnight” that creates an exciting, lively environment.

Agrawal also talked about two buildings, one new and one very old, that he hopes to rehabilitate.

He first spoke of the future of Oak Place Apartments, which closed down last year due to water damage.

Agrawal stated it would be more cost effective to fix the apartments, rather than tearing them down. According to Agrawal, however, this will not occur until the the lawsuit filed by UMKC against the builders of the apartments has been resolved.

Agrawal also expressed great interest in rehabilitating Epperson House. The 56-room mansion, considered in haunted, local legend, has stood vacant for over seven years due to its lack of accommodations for the disabled.

Agrawal said this building is one of his personal favorites

He has assembled a special taskforce to investigate bringing the home back to working order.

“It’s just gorgeous, those things don’t happen anymore,” he said.

Agrawal stated that the money for the rehab, which could be a large sum, would be sourced from donors willing to contribute to a “Kansas City treasure.”

In regards to these two buildings and any future projects in the realm of student housing, Agrawal emphasized the need for planning. According to him, little work will be done until the housing and Epperson House task forces have been heard from, all options have been reviewed and he has “seen the numbers.”

As determined by the recent survey sent to all students by the Housing Taskforce (which has a student presence) Agrawal emphasized how he wants to hear student opinions when determining future plans.

Ten years is a long time. The current crop of students at UMKC will have long since graduated before 2028 rolls around. If Agarwal’s plans come to fruition, however, future students may encounter a vastly different campus than the one we have left behind.

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