Kansas City Museum is laying out a roadmap for mansion renovation

On the Rebound: Kansas City Museum slated for renovations

Anne Marie Tutera discusses plans to renovate and revitalize the Kansas City Museum for public use.
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Anne Marie Tutera discusses plans to renovate and revitalize the Kansas City Museum for public use.

Two years after the Kansas City Museum became part of the city’s parks department, consultants are finishing plans to renovate the mansion as a fully functional local history museum.

A June 29 open house to present ideas to the community drew 89 people and an enthusiastic response, said Anna Marie Tutera, executive director of the Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall, 3218 Gladstone Blvd.

“It was fantastic,” Tutera said of the gathering. “There’s just a lot of enthusiasm. It is becoming a reality for people that it’s actually going to happen.”

Tutera and others emphasize that the master planning reports won’t be completed until August, and the financing and construction schedule remain very much up in the air. But the museum has already made considerable progress since it severed ties from Union Station and came under parks department management in May 2014, and is poised for more.

The city so far has spent about $10 million in capital improvement sales tax dollars to fix the mansion’s exterior, roof and windows, and to install a new heating and air-conditioning system.

A complete restoration of the entire estate property is expected to involve five more phases and take seven to 10 years, at a cost of millions of dollars. But planners hope the first phase, involving restoration of Corinthian Hall’s basement, first and second floors, can begin next May. That phase could be completed in 2019, at an estimated cost of $12 million.

While the behind-the-scenes planning has gone on, the museum has maintained a robust and dynamic schedule of temporary exhibits and just wrapped up a Southwest pottery exhibit. In the past year, the museum’s attendance came close to 16,000, up from just 4,000 a few years ago, Tutera said.

Its next exhibit, on the history and legacy of the Kansas City Fire Department, opens Oct. 8. It also hosts regular hard-hat tours and other events. More information is at kcmo.gov/kansascitymuseum.

Tutera, who has an extensive museum management background, was hired when the Kansas City Museum came under the fold of the parks department. Parks director Mark McHenry praised her stewardship.

“She’s doing a lot of great temporary exhibits and special events and parties to kind of keep the community and neighborhood engaged,” he said. “So people know it’s still relevant and vibrant.”

Tutera is determined to create a facility with exhibit space to do justice to the museum’s vast collection, tell Kansas City’s compelling story and be a welcoming event space.

The completion of strategic and business plans this summer and a visitor experience plan in September will help the museum start to raise money for more improvements, McHenry said.

Of the first phase’s $12 million cost, McHenry said part of the money could come from the city’s museum property tax levy. He estimates the levy could cover about $6 million, financed over time.

The other $6 million could come from private donations and other public dollars, including possible inclusion in a new city general obligation bond package. But a lot of other costly city projects, such as a new animal shelter and 18th and Vine improvements, are also competing for general obligation bond funding.

The museum’s long-range plans include future construction phases to repair the mansion’s third floor in 2020, the Carriage House in 2021, and the Gatekeeper’s House and other buildings and grounds possibly in 2022. A final phase would complete a new building connecting the mansion to the Carriage House, possibly in 2024.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley