Donations Bring UMKC Downtown Arts Campus Closer to Reality

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Downtown Arts Campus is $14 million away from moving forward.

Recent donations have put University of Missouri-Kansas City closer to realizing its goal of building the planned Downtown Arts Campus, which will house UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Thanks to a recent $1.5 million gift from the David Beals Charitable Trust and two other recent $1 million gifts from anonymous donors, the university is only $14 million away from its $48 million goal.

Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory, expressed thanks to the David Beals Charitable Trust and other donors to the project.

“A downtown campus for the Conservatory places current and future students in the heart of a championship city. Their presence will catalyze Kansas City’s reputation as a 21st century arts hub,” Witte says. “We are truly grateful for the support of our community for this project. Thanks to the David Beals Charitable Trust and other donors, we are confident UMKC’s Downtown Arts Campus will move forward.”

The university needs to raise a total of $48 million in private funds by June 30, 2016, 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 Phase 1 will house the Conservatory, replacing a collection of outdated and spread-out facilities on the Volker campus with state-of-the-art practice and classroom space in close proximity to Kansas City’s booming professional arts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 considered by UMKC for many years, but the university got serious about looking into it in 2011 when the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce named the project one of its Big 5 ideas.

The project garnered support from the Kansas City community, beginning in 2013 with a $20 million challenge gift from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation.  Last year, 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.

Relocating the Conservancy’s students would open much needed space on the landlocked Volker campus for other academic disciplines, one of the project’s benefits, according to UMKC. 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.