MCC's new Advanced Technical Skills Institute: 'Today is a better day' for students and KC's urban core
"Oh, this is a joyous day," proclaimed MCC-Penn Valley President Tyjaun Lee at the official opening of Metropolitan Community College's Advanced Technical Skills Institute.
At the April 8 ribbon-cutting event, ATSI was celebrated as a career training center accessible to more students than its predecessor and as another sign of the resurgence of the Troost Avenue corridor.
The block-long ATSI held its first classes in January following an extensive renovation of what had been a printing facility and warehouse. It is now home to five popular MCC workforce programs that relocated from the Business & Technology campus (near I-435 and Front Street), which closed in December.
ATSI's Troost Avenue address was mentioned by more than one speaker. For MCC Trustee Jermaine Reed, "this is very personal," he told about 150 in-person guests. As a teenager, he spent a lot of time riding public transportation along Troost, which over the years got the reputation of a racial and economic "dividing line" in Kansas City, he said.
But "watching this corridor come to life over two or three decades has been remarkable," he said, with major institutions, new businesses and the city investing in the area and its infrastructure. "So today is a better day for (MCC's) Subdistrict 2" -- which Reed represents -- "and all of us who call this community home."
Chancellor Kimberly Beatty recalled calling Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell when MCC started looking for a central-city location for a manufacturing training site. When KCPS' Manual Career and Technical Center on Truman Road didn't work out, Bedell mentioned a vacant building "right across the street" from school district headquarters on Troost, Dr. Beatty said.
"Gutting and renovating" the future ATSI and "retiring" the BT campus was a lot going on at one time. But "I am really glad to see this vision come to fruition," the chancellor said. "And you know why? We're right on the bus line" in the urban core, providing equitable access to the skilled trades.
It has meant a lot to see all the development along Troost Avenue, Jackson County Legislator Jalen Anderson said. Institutions like MCC are helping end poverty by providing new opportunities that "will change lives for the better in ways we can hardly imagine."
And don't forget MCC had two other capital projects going up during the same 18-month period as ATSI: Blue River East and Penn Valley's Engineering Technology addition. They, too, house career programs that moved from BT. All told, it was a "herculean" effort, Dr. Beatty said, accomplished during a time of great uncertainty and stress and countless Zoom meetings.
In fact, the ATSI design process was quite out of the ordinary thanks to COVID-19, according to Hollis + Miller Architects' Albert Ray. The firm kicked off the project in-person on March 10, 2020, he said, but within days the design process had to go virtual. "That took a lot of tenacity," he said.
But he's proud of the result. For instance, all the natural light in the building was purposeful: so people outside "can see what is happening here." ATSI's long "social spine" hallway was designed for "learning on display," Ray said. If, for instance, a construction student sees some welding in action, that student just might stop and ask the welder some questions. Many of the building's features are geared toward collaborative learning, Ray said.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas couldn't attend the ribbon-cutting, but in a video message he noted that his mother was a community college student "some years ago."
"That was a way that my family got up and got ahead," said Lucas, a Kansas City native. "Thank you for investing in families like mine."
MORE ABOUT MCC's ADVANCED TECHNICAL SKILLS INSTITUTE
- ATSI is home to five MCC workforce training programs: building maintenance and construction, computer-integrated machining and manufacturing, HVAC, industrial technology and welding.
- Renovation of the 101,108-square-foot building started in the fall of 2020 and was completed in late 2021.
- ATSI, at 2944 Troost Ave., is considered part of MCC-Penn Valley, whose main campus is less than 2 miles away.
- The building features group collaboration areas as well as inviting spots for individual study. A modular classroom with a removable white-board wall is already in high demand. The HVAC program has indoor and outdoor training spaces including a "treehouse" loft area.
- ATSI was designed by Hollis + Miller and Cuningham Group.
- General contractors: McCownGordon Construction and LM2 Construction.
- Price tag for the ATSI project: $19.2 million.
- McCownGordon worked on MCC-Blue River East and MCC-Penn Valley's Engineering Technology addition as well. Taking the three projects together, McCownGordon involved more than 60 trade partners, half of which were either minority- or women-owned, vice president Daniel Lacy said at the ribbon-cutting.
- The College bought the 4-acre ATSI property from Nazarene Publishing House, which had previously sold its administrative buildings on the east side of Troost to Kansas City Public Schools. KCPS repurposed them for district headquarters.
- The MCC purchase included the publishing house's former printing facility and distribution center, which underwent an extreme makeover in its transformation to an MCC career training facility.