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Building a Legacy

Watch: “The Story of Kauffman Legacy Park” | 14:31

The Kauffman Foundation office building at Kauffman Legacy Park was designed to house and symbolize the mission of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The building’s arms reach out, embracing the potential of Kansas City and its people. The gardens and grounds provide an accessible greenspace in the heart of the city. Open and welcoming, the Kauffman Foundation serves as a place of gathering and possibility.

In 1995, after a decade in leased office space at 4900 Oak Street, the Kauffman Foundation announced plans to build a permanent home on an undeveloped 37-acre tract owned by the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The groundbreaking ceremony for Kauffman Legacy Park was held along a gentle sweep of Brush Creek between Rockhill Road and Troost Avenue on March 6, 1997. In addition to an office building, the Foundation unveiled plans for a conference center, the Ewing and Muriel Memorial Garden, and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discovery Center to be located on the site.


Kallmann McKinnell & Woods Architects, a Boston-based firm known for creating prominent gathering places including Boston City Hall and the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, was chosen for the project. KM&W set out to create a design that would capture the vision of the Kauffman Foundation.

Ted Szostkowski
Ted Szostkowski

Engaged and meticulous, the architects conducted interviews with Kauffman associates to understand the nature of the Foundation’s work and its culture “The three words we kept hearing were listening, excellence and community,” said Ted Szostkowski, the lead project architect. “It had to present itself as an institution that was about others. It wasn’t about featuring itself. It was about featuring what went on inside.”

In addition to Kauffman associates, neighbors and community members were asked about their hopes and expectations for the new campus. The low-slung profile of the building, unobtrusive lighting in the parking lot, and the effort to protect as many existing trees on the property as possible were all influenced by ideas and concerns expressed by the community. Developing the property became part of the city’s Brush Creek Redevelopment initiative.

Aerial view pre-construction

The goal was to create a place that felt like home for both the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Family Foundation.  Windows represent transparency, a key aspect of the Foundation’s commitment to look outside and reinforce its willingness to allow the community to see in and connect with the Foundation. “It had to present itself as an institution that was about others,” said Szostkowski. “It wasn’t about featuring itself. It was about featuring what went on inside.”

A significant addition to Kansas City’s community life was the decision to devote nearly a third of the building to house a versatile gathering place for the community. Hoping to address the lack of suitable meeting space available to a wide range of nonprofit organizations, the Kauffman Conference Center would offer meeting rooms free of charge to eligible nonprofits.

The Construction


JE Dunn Construction, a Kansas City company with a long history of building of some of its hometown’s most celebrated buildings, lead a team of skilled trade builders and contractors on the project. Kauffman associates followed the building’s progress and arranged tours of the construction site. A poster in the lobby marked a daily countdown as associates planned their new office spaces and prepared for the move. Workers who piled their trades to craft the building became part of the Foundation’s extended family of associates and, months after the building opened, they were invited along with their families to return to the building for an open house to celebrate their accomplishment.

When the building was nearly complete Szostkowski spoke about the talented craftsmen and craftswomen who came together for the project. “There’s this intimate bond between institutions and that carried over into the bonding of the team by setting a high standard what you what you find is people really love to do their best work,” he said. “To foster an environment where that can happen, it seems like it’s obvious, but it’s not common.”

Making a Home

First Day
First day at the new Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation building in Kansas City, Missouri.
Inside the Kauffman Foundation
Inside the newly constructed Kauffman Foundation.

The doors to the Kauffman Foundation at 4801 Rockhill Road opened on a frigid morning on Monday, January 4, 1999. Kauffman Foundation Chairman Bob Rogers and President and CEO Lou Smith greeted each associate as they entered the first permanent home of the Kauffman Foundation. An Opening Day packet included a welcome and guides to Kauffman Legacy Park and asked associates to consider their own legacy as they settled into new surroundings.

The Kauffman Foundation’s home features a brick exterior and distinctive copper roof. Wood pergolas line the parking lot, and stone walking paths and patios wind along the contoured landscape. An outdoor courtyard area showcases patios and two ponds joined by cascading streams of water. Inside, the building features natural maple wood walls, doors, highlights, and work surfaces, glass partitions, windows and dramatic half valued ceilings on the second floor office wings.

In 2007 the building underwent remodeling, which changed work space configurations, added meeting space to office wings, and created a separate entrance to accommodate guests attending events in the Kauffman Conference Center. The design makeover also added color to the interior walls, which had been white throughout the building.

The building has aged well over two decades and has helped spark residential and commercial development in nearby neighborhoods.