Development Kid Stuff

Children’s Museum Sells Building, Plans Pop-Up Play Space With Visit Eau Claire

collaboration slated for early next year

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

The big blue blocks will be back ... soon!
The big blue blocks will be back ... soon!

The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire made a couple of announcements Monday that should have local families cheering:

First, the museum – which plans to re-open in a newly built home on North Barstow Street in 2022 – has sold its original building, 220 S. Barstow St., which has been closed for several months because of you-know-what. Terms of the sale are expected to be disclosed by Jan. 31, when the deal is supposed to be finalized.

Second, the museum says it will collaborate with Visit Eau Claire to open “Play Street, A Children’s Museum Popup” inside Visit Eau Claire’s space at the Pablo Center at the Confluence as early as the beginning of next year. The temporary display will feature a rocket climber and slide, the giant blue blocks from Imagination Playground, and other hands-on elements.

Naturally, Opening “Play Street” will be contingent on the fluctuating COVID-19 situation, but it’s nonetheless another bright piece of news for the museum, which recently unveiled plans for its new building, which will open on the so-called “Liner Site” on North Barstow in 2022.

Here’s the full announcement, courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire:

Children’s Museum accepts offer to purchase building; announces new partnership with Visit Eau Claire.

-For Immediate Release-
Monday, November 30, 2020

EAU CLAIRE, WI – The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire today announces that the board of directors accepted an offer to purchase the building located at 220 S. Barstow Street. The sale is expected to be finalized at closing by January 31, 2021, at which time more details of the pending transaction will be available.

Plans are still progressing to reopen the Children’s Museum in 2022 at its planned new location on the Liner Site in downtown Eau Claire. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CMEC moved up the timeline for listing it’s building for sale. Typically, this would have been done a year out from our expected date to open in the new location,” said Michael McHorney, executive director. “We were pleasantly surprised and pleased that an offer to purchase came within one month of listing the property for sale.”

CMEC has considered several options for continuing to maintain a presence and serve the community. Fortunately, Visit Eau Claire approached the Children’s Museum about a partnership in the Visit Eau Claire Experience Center at Pablo Center. Benny Anderson, Visit Eau Claire executive director had this to say about the partnership, “The importance of the Children’s Museum to the Chippewa Valley and especially to tourism has never been more prominent than it is right now.  We are so excited to be a part of a solution that allows the Children’s Museum to prepare for their amazing new project, us to move more money into marketing for the tourism industry when they need it most and utilizes the Experience Center in a way that highlights the great things that can happen in Eau Claire.”

CMEC plans to open “Play Street, A Children’s Museum Popup,” where children and their grown ups will have a play space that features open ended concepts and loose parts. The play space is planned to have a rocket climber and slide, Imagination Playground’s giant blue blocks, Rigamajig by Kaboom, and other hands-on experiences. CMEC is working towards opening Play Street in early 2021 pending the situation of COVID-19. The space will also make possible in person educational programs once it is deemed safer and allow for CMEC to continue its summer partnership with the Eau Claire Area School District by offering summer camps. These camps will come at a crucial time for children in early childhood, who may experience setbacks due to interruptions in their learning because of the pandemic. All of these efforts will be located inside the Visit Eau Claire Experience Center at 128 Graham Avenue. McHorney shared “We look forward to keeping a presence and awareness in the community. This is also a great opportunity to prototype some of the new exhibits and experiences that will be in the new museum.”

CMEC brings an estimated $1.14 million each year to the community through tourism spending. Its presence has spurned increased tax base to the City of Eau Claire in the South Barstow Business District to the tune of $2.7 million since its inception in 2004. What’s greatest and probably largely unknown, is the fact that CMEC serves thousands of children from low to moderate income households each year through its Play for All membership program. Since the launch of this program in 2015 and because of generous private philanthropy, CMEC gave back $217,482 to the community through subsidizing Play for All memberships. McHorney shared, “we take pride in our continuous pursuit of giving more back to the community through serving children who need us most.”

For more information visit Children’s Museum of Eau Claire’s website,