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The Springfield Art Museum’s three-phase, up to $19 million plan calls on expansion and improvements, as well as connections to natural elements.
Rendering provided by Springfield Art Museum
The Springfield Art Museum’s three-phase, up to $19 million plan calls on expansion and improvements, as well as connections to natural elements.

Art museum draws out big-city feel with master plan

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Last edited 3:04 p.m., Oct. 12, 2018

The Springfield Art Museum unveiled an up to $19 million, 30-year master plan that officials say aims to put the venue on par with its peers in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Kansas City-based architecture firm BNIM developed the plan over the last nine months, gathering inspiration from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, among others, according to a news release.

“Ninety years ago, our founders established the Springfield Art Museum with about 20 works of art in a borrowed space,” museum Director Nick Nelson said in the release. “Their vision and courage inspire us today as we consider the long-term future of this wonderful institution and present a plan for the next 30 years that is no less visionary.”

The three-phase project would expand and improve the 1111 E. Brookside Drive museum with plans for new educational, public and community spaces, as well improvements in parking, interior circulation, grounds and greenspace. Additional planned amenities are a new family learning center, potential artist studios, classrooms and co-working space for community partners or group meetings, said Joshua Best, the museum’s development and marketing coordinator.

Work also would focus on connecting pedestrian and bicycle access via trails and implementing stormwater improvements, such as the naturalization of areas along Fassnight Creek. The naturalization process would reduce flood risks and improve the outdoor aesthetics of the museum, according to the release.

BNIM’s 147-page master plan includes midcentury modern design elements present in the original 1958 museum, designing the structure similarly to the surrounding Phelps Grove and University Heights neighborhoods, and connecting the building to its amphitheater and outdoor sculptures.

Best said the firm was chosen in January, through a request for qualifications a year ago and following interviews with several firms. Nelson said the museum has paid BNIM $133,513 for work through June 30, and it was funded by a private donation.

The project timeline has not been set as it’s contingent on fundraising. Best said the museum will seek public and private financing sources. The cost of the plan, he said, has a range of $17 million to $19 million.

“We think most of the public funding would be for Phase I, with state and federal funds and municipal funds for stormwater,” Best said, adding tax credits also would be considered.

Site work estimated at $3 million-$4 million would occur in Phase I of the project, Best said.

“We are currently in the study phase of planning a capital campaign, so it is too early to lay out the specifics,” he said, noting the museum hired Atlanta-based capital campaign consulting firm Alexander Haas to help with the efforts.

The museum has some funding for new sculptures outside the venue, Best said, noting the majority of the funds would have to be raised.

“Right now, part of it is analyzing current donor records and seeing what the potential gifts would be. We’re in the process of interviews with donors to find out giving interest and potential,” Best said.

The development is expected to have an impact on surrounding property.

“It’s going to positively effect the value,” said Steve Kittle, who worked at Vincent Appraisal LLC for 20 years until starting Kittle Appraisal four years ago. “I always look at University Heights as some of the most desirable houses in the area.”

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