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City moves to sever Kansas City Museum from Union Station

Updated: 2013-11-27T05:19:48Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

Union Station would relinquish more than $1 million in annual tax revenue for the Kansas City Museum under an agreement that would put the city in charge of the museum collection.

The proposal, spelled out in a proposed ordinance introduced Thursday at the City Council and referred to a committee, would sever ties between the Kansas City Museum and Union Station that reach back more than a dozen years.

“It was a very long, convoluted relationship,” Union Station director George Guastello said Thursday. “This has been a very good collaborative effort over many months to find the best solution.”

Martha Lally, chairwoman of the Kansas City Museum Advisory Board, welcomed the agreement.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Lally said.

The new arrangement would take effect May 1. It caps months of discussion between the city and Union Station over the future of the museum. The museum’s advisory board, appointed by the mayor, recently voted to endorse a business plan that called for severing ties with the station.

Board members feel the new arrangement would better allow the museum to raise the millions of dollars needed to complete restoration of Corinthian Hall, the city-owned mansion that has housed the Kansas City Museum since 1940.

The city has invested more than $10 million upgrading the 1910 mansion at 3218 Gladstone Blvd. But it could take over $20 million more to bring the first floor back to its original opulence and to convert the upper floors for exhibit and education space.

The agreement does not address ownership of the museum’s vast collection, most of which was transferred to Union Station with the merger of the museum and the station with the opening of Science City.

But the deal would establish the city’s responsibility for storing and maintaining the entire collection. The city would retain all of the approximately $1.4 million generated annually by a property tax to support the museum.

The city would, however, pay Union Station $131,000 a year to lease 14,600 square feet of storage space at Union Station.

Currently, Union Station receives all the tax revenue and not only stores and maintains the museum collection but also manages and arranges programming at Corinthian Hall.

Those responsibilities would pass to the city Parks and Recreation Department.

The curatorial and programing staff — about a dozen people — would no longer work for Union Station.

Guastello said the tax revenue paid for those employees and the programming, so the loss of the money “will have no impact” on operations at Union Station.

“This agreement is a very good solution to allow the museum to move forward with what the city wants to do, and it allows us to continue to do well what we have done at Union Station,” Guastello said.

The ordinance would dissolve the museum advisory board, but Lally said its members are part of a newly established foundation that can assist in raising money.

The ordinance states that the city may exhibit the collection at Corinthian Hall and that the city and Union Station may exhibit the collection at other locations under the museum’s brand.

The new agreement was negotiated between Union Station and the city manager’s office with guidance from City Council members Jan Marcason, Jim Glover and Scott Wagner.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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