Milwaukee Public Museum considering more than 10 sites for new home

Unveils two possible future concepts [PHOTO GALLERY]

Back plaza

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:22 am

The Milwaukee Public Museum is considering more than 10 sites in and around downtown Milwaukee for its new home, MPM President and CEO Dennis Kois said.

The museum plans to move from its current county-owned building at 800 W. Wells St. to a new $100 million or more building within the next decade. Kois is hoping to break ground on the project by 2022.

On Friday, the MPM released two concepts. The first designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture of a museum in downtown Milwaukee. The second, by Milwaukee-based firm Zimmerman Architectural Studios of a museum at the lakefront.

Design concepts were also developed by major museum design firms across the country including Washington D.C.-and Singapore-based Gallagher & Associates, Chicago-based Luci Creative, New York City-based Local Projects, and Brooklyn-based Peter Hyde Design.

Rinka Chung design:

New location will be directly downtown or on the edge of it, Kois said.

“We are certainly going to remain in Milwaukee,” Kois said. “We have been downtown for 150 years and are part of the fabric of the city.”

Kois did not specify which sites are being considered. He said he could count the number of sites being considered or being presented to the museum on “more than two human hands.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel building, Major Goolsby’s restaurant and the 3-acre block both properties occupy was presented as an option to the museum in May by area brokers marketing property, according to emails obtained through an open records request by BizTimes.

Gannett, which owns the property, wanted all offers for the site by June 15. While the property does offer the full block the museum is looking for and adjacent to the Milwaukee Bucks Entertainment District, it will not likely be the site.

“I don’t think we’ll be ready this round, unfortunately,” Kois said in an email to brokers dated May 30.

The new four-story museum will include an underground parking garage and a roof-top deck. It will encompass a full city block.

Currently, the museum does not collect any parking revenue from its guests. In 2017, the museum had 504,056 visitors to the museum, special exhibits, and the planetarium and theater, down 8 percent from 2016 when there were 548,976 visitors.

The new building is designed to be less than half the size of the museum’s current 400,000-square-foot facility reflecting a larger trend of museums that are scaling down their footprints as they sift away from large diorama exhibits, Kois said.

“Museums have done a great job of telling stories with dioramas,” Kois said. “We want to make sure we are using technology effectively to tell stories to our visitors so a 12-year-old today can be just as excited to visit as a 12-year-old in the 1960s.”

The new museum will also include the beloved Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit.

“I don’t know what it will look like, but there is no scenario where the Streets of Old Milwaukee does not come with us,” Kois said. “I would be run out of town if it didn’t.”

Country-wide design concepts:

The museum has been considering its future since 2015 and had considered renovating its current building. Moving out of the aging building, where 4.5 million artifacts also need to be stored, emerged as the best scenario last year.

In order to keep the footprint and cost of the new museum achievable, a significant portion of the collections will be stored off-site.

A fund raising feasibility planning committee is currently working to decide the best approach to launching a capital campaign.

Fundraising will be done statewide since the Milwaukee Public Museum is the state’s natural history museum, Kois said.

The project will need buy-in from the state, Milwaukee County, donors and the community.

“Projects like this are so complicated that whatever we come up with, all of the players are going to have to agree before we can make it happen,” Kois said. “Nothing like this happens overnight.”

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