Chamber Modifies Big 5 Vision for UMKC

Some long-held civic dreams were dashed earlier this month with the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s decision to abandon plans to move its Conservatory of Music and Dance to a Downtown location, leveraging the assets of a world-class performing arts center nearby.

But that doesn’t mean Kansas City must do without world-class music-and-dance instruction or facilities. To that end, the board of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce announced today that it was altering the focus of one of its Big 5 initiatives. When it rolled those out in 2011, the Downtown conservatory project was among them.

Seven years later, the board has voted  unanimously to change that goal from “Moving UMKC’s World-Class Arts Programs to a New Downtown Location” to deal with the new reality: “Building a New World-Class Conservatory at UMKC.”

 The university announced on Sept. 4 that it would restrict the site for a new facility to within 2 1/2  miles of the campus near the Country Club Plaza.  In a news release this morning, the chamber aid the board’s vote reflected the position that replacement of the conservatory’s current outdated facilities is of primary concern, more so than the location. The conservatory must have amenities that equal the quality of its music, dance, and theater faculty and students, the board said.

In addition, UMKC’s merger of the conservatory and theater departments had changed the scope of the project, making a Crossroads site no longer viable. Still, the chamber says, extension of the Downtown streetcar system to the UMKC campus creates a link to the Kauffman Performing Arts Center that wasn’t available in 2011, before work on that line started.

A final point: The chamber said it was important to move forward on the new conservatory home by 2020, to ensure continued accreditation of UMKC’s programming in those areas.