- Associated Press - Monday, August 4, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is considering an ambitious plan to create a unified cultural district around the museum that would include lawns, public art installations, bike trails and connecting bridges.

Supporters stress the plan offered by a New York design firm Weiss/Manfredi, which was paid for by the Hall Family Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation, is only in its preliminary stages. Similar proposals have been discussed for about 50 years, but the cultural district is now a key goal in the museum’s April 2013 strategic plan, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1pRseqr ).

The proposed district would encompass roughly 4 square miles in a 1-mile radius around the museum, with areas linked by bike and walking trails, pedestrian bridges and enhanced lighting and security. No one has estimated the cost of the proposal.

“We’re trying to dream a future for the Nelson-Atkins and for Kansas City in which art and our institution play a more intrinsic role in people’s lives,” said the museum’s director/CEO, Julian Zugazagoitia. “This is first renderings, a crystallization of dreams that have been discussed for many years by many, being brought to light for public discussion by these great architects.”

Zugazagoitia has been informally sharing plan with board members, city officials and the museum’s neighbors in the recent months.

The study also suggests razing some buildings, including some homes, on museum-owned land north of the facility, and that suggestion has raised some concerns.

Galen Mussman, president of the Rockhill Homes Association, said parts of the proposal are “really exciting” but he questioned the proposal to tear down homes.

“The people in Rockhill love the Nelson as an institution, but we’re not crazy about the Nelson as a neighbor,” he said. “It’s almost a schizophrenic thing. We love what they do and we’re happy to have that jewel close by, but they’re not doing a lot of things directly to help the neighborhood.”

Nothing is written in stone, said Catherine Futter, the museum’s senior curator of architecture, design and decorative arts. “New ideas can come from these.”

Public input into the plan will officially begin Oct. 24, when Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi hold a public discussion about the study.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com