As apartment buildings go, this one was always intended to be more than just a roof, a view and an in-unit washer and dryer.
High expectations surrounded the construction of the first Hospital Hill Campus student housing project by the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The new structure is supposed to help draw the most talented future nurses, dentists, pharmacists and physicians to study and practice in Kansas City; stabilize an evolving neighborhood; stimulate spinoff development; promote increased student traffic between UMKC’s two campuses; and help break down a generations-old racial barrier.
State and city dignitaries, neighborhood leaders, university officials, faculty, staff and students gathered at the Hospital Hill Apartments for a grand opening celebration and delivered their verdict: Mission accomplished.
Developer Hugh Zimmer, one of the leaders of the Beacon Hill Development Corporation that built the project, summed up the group’s feelings about the realization of a long-held “dream” to restore a once-proud and stable middle-class neighborhood called Beacon Hill.
“Since the groundbreaking for this project, 12 additional new homes have been completed and 10 additional lots have been sold, and 28 additional lots will be available for sale in the next few months,” Zimmer said.
A healthy-food grocery sponsored by Truman Medical Centers and a boutique hotel are in the planning stages; and the apartments are filled with a diverse mix of bright, eager students – 60 percent of whom take all or most of their classes at the UMKC Volker Campus four miles away.
Vaishnaui Vaidyanathan, MS 3, moved into the new apartment complex in August and now serves as a resident assistant. Vaidyanathan said she appreciated the convenience of living near the medical school and hospital and for her classes and clinical rotations.
“I really like living here,” Vaidyanathan said. “Being close to my classes at the med school is really nice. I can study at the med school and if it’s late, I don’t have very far to go to get back to my room at night.”
She said she also likes the diversity of the student body in the apartments.
“I like the apartments not beacuse they’re new but because there are so many different people here,” she said. “My roommate is a pharmacy student, so there is interaction with a diverse group of students. I’ve already met so many different people.”
A procession of speakers representing a variety of stakeholders participated in a ribbon-tying ceremony, as opposed to a ribbon-cutting. UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton explained the symbolism.
“Today is all about tying things together. We’re tying city and state, campus and community, east side and west side, business and government,” Morton said. “This building is a statement about what we can accomplish when we come together.”
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander said the building is a key addition to a Hospital Hill district that is the epicenter of a growing industry vital to Kansas City’s future – health care.
“UMKC is one of the bedrocks of Kansas City. Everybody knows that,” Kander said. “This will help UMKC to attract and educate students who will work in that vital industry.”
Mayor Sly James added that the building is both “an exciting milestone for UMKC and for this entire community,” as well as an amenity that will help to attract and keep highly talented young people from around the region and country to Kansas City.
Juan Garcia, president of the UMKC Student Government Association, said completion of UMKC’s fourth student housing building represents an evolutionary change for the university’s student body.
“We have more students living on-campus or within walking distance in community rental housing, than ever before,” Garcia said.
“No longer is UMKC merely the school that recedes in your rear-view mirror after class, as you drive back to your other life. As students, we are making our home here, in great neighborhoods that are part of a great city – a city that many of us will continue to call home after graduation.”
Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri System, said the building is an example of “leadership in action.”
“We are seeing the fruits of leadership from a city and a state, from a university and a private sector business partnership, and from a community that cares,” Wolfe said. “The Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, in particular, deserves credit for their leadership. The board insisted on market rate development agreements in order to spur additional development in the surrounding area. The result is progress in health, in economic development and in neighborhood renewal.”
Morton singled out Nikki Krawitz, the longtime vice president for finance and administration for the University of Missouri System.
“It was her leadership, determination and effort that made today possible. Thank you, Nikki,” Morton said. “I am proud to stand here with so many people who contributed to this project, and to be representing Kansas City’s university. Today we demonstrate the full meaning of that phrase. This is what it means to be Kansas City’s university.”