Sunday, May 22, 2022
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What’s the Big Idea?

Feasibility Study considers logistics of new Downtown Arts Campus

A separate campus for various arts programs at UMKC could be Kansas City’s next step to urban core revitalization.

The idea of a downtown campus for the Conservatory of Music and Dance became news one year ago, and the University began a feasibility study process last fall that will culminate at the end of this month.

In an interview with U-News last August, Conservatory dean Peter Witte said facilities on the Volker campus are inadequate for the school’s programs, citing a lack of practice rooms, recital venues and adequate soundproofing and handicap accessibility features.

Several other programs, including the Theatre Department, Art and Art History Department, Kansas City Repertoire Theatre, KCUR and Film Studies program, have also expressed interest in a downtown location.

The push for a downtown arts campus is also supported by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which selected the downtown arts campus as one of its “Big 5” ideas for the Kansas City region.

The feasibility study, which will determine if and how the campus is built, includes four studies evaluating the Conservatory’s needs for a new facility, impact on the Volker campus and surrounding community, impact on the regional economy, and fundraising.

If built, the process will rely almost exclusively on local fundraising, according to Bob Simmons, vice chancellor of facilities, and other sources in administration.

The intent is to create the new UMKC Downtown Arts Campus in close proximity to the multitude of arts and entertainment focused venues,” as stated in the objectives of the Programming and Planning Study.

In Dec. 2011, Helix Architecture + Design, Integra Realty Resources and HGA Architects and Engineers were commissioned to perform the feasibility study.

The firms must consider real estate options as part of the feasibility criteria. Walkability to public transit, and to venues such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Crossroads Arts District and Power & Light District, is a must.

Simmons said some students, especially in the arts, want an urban location with amenities not offered on the Volker campus.

The four criteria considered were transit, cost, neighborhood and visibility.

Of the 12 initial locations considered, proximity to the Kauffman Center for the Arts and other performance venues used by Conservatory programs played a decisive role in selecting the four finalist locations: Barney Allis Plaza, Kauffman PAC East and Kauffman PAC South and Kauffman PAC West.


The Programming and Planning Study includes building layouts and site plans of possible arts campus designs.

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