Children’s Museum in Home Stretch of Fundraising Effort
60% of donation goal raised for new museum, and groundbreaking slated for Oct. 1
A new museum for the Chippewa Valley’s little ones is taking some big steps toward becoming a reality: The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire has raised 60% of the donations it needs to build a new home on North Barstow Street, and it plans to break ground on the project Oct. 1.
Museum CEO Michael McHorney made those announcements Thursday during a press conference to launch the public phase of the museum’s fundraising campaign. Until now, a quieter effort has solicited pledges from 76 large-scale donors, raising more than $5.7 million of the museum’s goal of $9.7 million, McHorney said.
The total cost of the new museum will be approximately $12.6 million, McHorney said, a total that includes $2.9 million in federal new market tax credits that the project expects to receive. (The tax credits go to individuals and corporations who invest money in distressed areas. The Pablo Center at the Confluence benefited from about $3 million in such credits.)
“It really is an investment in our community,” McHorney said of the new museum, which is expected to open in November 2022 at 126 N. Barstow St. “It is an investment in our downtown, which has seen so much happen when it comes to revitalization in the last several years. And we’ve certainly been a part of that with our former location, and now with this new location we will continue to help sustain all of that wonderful redevelopment, revitalization, and growth that has happened in our community.”
It really is an investment in our community.
It is an investment in our downtown, which has seen so much happen when it comes to revitalization in the last several years.
CEO, CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF EAU CLAIRE
The new museum will be built on what is usually referred to as the “liner site,” between the North Barstow parking ramp and the street. Now a vacant lot, the site was home to Eau Claire’s post office until 2014.
Plans call for a two-story, 26,000-square-foot facility that will feature the kinds of hands-on, educational exhibits the museum was known for at its original location, 220 S. Barstow St. That site closed permanently last year amid the pandemic. Last spring, a smaller, temporary version of the museum, called Play Space, opened in the Haymarket Landing building, 40 S. Barstow St. McHorney said Play Space will remain open until the new museum is ready to welcome visitors.
Those visitors will find a museum that’s bigger, bolder, and greener. The building will be built in part with “structural round timber” – essentially whole, unmilled trees – that will give it a woodsy vibe and echo the city’s logging history. It will also include a year-round outdoor play area (something the old museum didn’t have) and will be 100% powered with renewable energy (thanks to a $478,000 grant from the state Public Service Commission).
McHorney said the museum aims to move from 60% to 80% of its fundraising goal by the end of the year with the help of a “50 for 50” Initiative, which will entail finding 50 donors who will pledge at least $50,000 each. “This is really going to be the backbone of our campaign,” he said.
And while Thursday’s announcements were about dollars and cents, museum board president Marianne Klinkhammer reminded attendees at a press conference about the new museum’s ultimate mission.
“It is right now about the building, and about the exhibits, but it’s really, really about the children and what is happening inside that building and what we can do for the future,” she said.
Learn more about the museum, its programs, and its plans at ChildrensMuseumEC.com.