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New future for Epperson House?

Agrawal assembles task force to address restoration efforts

A mysterious, crumbling mansion sits high on a hill at the corner of 52nd and Cherry Streets, sealed away behind locked wrought-iron gates. Unlike her ghostly inhabitants, Epperson House might be getting another chance at life.

Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal sat down with Steve Kraske on KCUR’s “Up to Date” last month, speaking at length of his plans and goals for the university. While discussing these plans, Agrawal touched on his desire to refurbish and revitalize the notorious Epperson House, which has sat vacant for eight years.

The beginning of Epperson House’s end started in 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The act included a mandate that all institutions and facilities receiving public funding must be accessible to people with disabilities. This proved to be a particular challenge for Epperson House, which boasts several stairs and recessed floors that do not easily accommodate ramps or elevators.

Over its eight years of vacancy, it has fallen into a state of disrepair. An article published by University News in 2013 detailed the state of neglect the building had suffered, including deteriorating stained-glass windows, water damage and crumbling crenellations on the house’s tower.

Agrawal, however, seemed undeterred.

“We need to restore it. We need to give it some good use,” Agrawal said. “It’s a jewel for UMKC [and] for Kansas City.”

Agrawal tossed around some ideas for the house, including a turning the house into faculty center, an alumni center or a conference center. No official decisions have been made regarding restoration efforts.

According to UMKC Director of Media Relations John Martellaro, Agrawal has assembled a task force consisting of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

The task force will have its first meeting Nov. 7, where it will discuss ideas for future uses of the building as well as how the project will be funded, which at this point also remains unclear.

According to Martellaro, it will cost an estimated $12-14 million to get the house up to a usable standard.

“The major challenge is finding a way to generate the revenue needed to renovate the structure, conduct programming and maintain it over time,” said Martellaro.

Martellaro explained that donors often play a key role in large projects like this one.

“Philanthropy will definitely be on the table for discussion and exploration,” Martellaro said.

Because the task force has not yet met, there is not an estimated timeline for this project.

UMKC has a number of ongoing projects, so Epperson House might not become a major priority right away.

“The computing and engineering building is fully funded and construction is underway,” stated Martellaro. “The new Conservatory and continued renovations in our science buildings are top campus priorities, and addressing student housing is a must.”

However, prospects are still bright for the boarded-up manor.

“While funding for Epperson House is not included in our budget at present, Chancellor Agrawal has taken a strong personal interest in its future,” said Martellaro.

While definitive plans for Epperson House’s future are still up in the air, Agrawal’s arrival could be a significant turning point in its story.

For several years, the mansion has faced an uncertain and bleak future. Now it seems that life may once again fill the dormant halls of one of UMKC’s most notorious yet forgotten buildings.

ee35d@mail.umkc.edu

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1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Epperson House,
    I am the owner of Haunted Passports. I just opened in February of this year. I would like the opportunity to work with Epperson house and share more information about my business.
    The goal of Haunted Passports is to bring the haunted overnights and the paranormal community together as one under one location. I do have a website that you can view at http://www.hauntedpassports.com. I am also on Facebook and Instagram.
    I would like the opportunity to discuss this venture further with you.

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