UMKC scraps plans for downtown conservatory, giving city space to update Barney Allis Plaza

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  UMKC will no longer build a conservatory in downtown Kansas City, paving the way for the city to invest in a long-ignored gathering place.

Most people forget about Barney Allis Plaza off 14th and Central because you can’t see it when you stand in front of the Music Hall. A massive stone walls block view and access to it.

Part of the renovation plans include getting rid of the wall and giving it a fresh look so people will use it.

City manager Troy Schulte tweeted Tuesday that UMKC’s decision to not build a conservatory downtown frees the city up to go forward with plans to reconstruct Barney Allis Plaza.

“Goal would be to replace all parking and improve the Plaza as a community place,” he wrote.

The underground parking garage is old, and earlier this year a piece of the ceiling crashed down on a parked car, causing more than $10,000 in damage.

Above ground, architects plan to create green space and a play yard to attract more people to use it.

This site had been under consideration by UMKC to build a $100 million Conservatory, but Tuesday UMKC officials announced they will no longer build it downtown – instead, they want to build it within two and a half miles of the Volker campus near the Plaza.

Trying to get the conservatory built has seen many challenges the past five years.

UMKC originally hoped to build it across from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, with the Muriel Kauffman Foundation donating $20 million. But then-Governor Eric Greitens pulled $48 million in state funding, the Foundation withdrew its pledge, and UMKC went back to square one.

Now the university is asking for ideas on where to build its new home for students majoring in the performing arts.

As for the Barney Allis Plaza reconstruction, there is no clear timeline. The city has been discussing this for awhile and is moving ahead with plans to renovate this area.

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