Northwestern Mutual gives $600,000 for Discovery World expansion

Will support facility expansion, programming at lakefront facility [PHOTO GALLERY]

A street level rendering of the Discovery World expansion.

The Northwestern Mutual Foundation is giving $600,000 to support Discovery World’s expansion project and programming at the downtown Milwaukee lakefront museum.

The three-year commitment from Northwestern Mutual will support the organization’s facility expansion, which is adding about 20,000 square feet to the museum, and programming for residents served by Northwestern Mutual’s neighborhoods program, including the Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way neighborhoods.

“Discovery World inspires and educates the Milwaukee community, providing opportunities many young people might not otherwise have access to,” said Eric Christophersen, president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “Our grant will have a great impact on both improving this educational destination while also helping to shape Milwaukee’s next generation of innovators.”

Discovery World broke ground in the fall on its two-phase project, which includes a new permanent pavilion, two new permanent exhibits and a new entrance to the museum. The cost of the project initially was estimated at about $18 million, but that figure has come down slightly since it was first announced, Discovery World president Joel Brennan said Wednesday. Any additional funding raised above project costs would be directed to the organization’s endowment and maintenance funds, he said.

The museum has raised about $12 million to date, which is the cost of the first phase of the project, Brennan said.

“Through our programming, curriculum and exhibits, we’re generating excitement in the minds of young people about future STEM careers,” said Joel Brennan, president and CEO, Discovery World. “We’re grateful for community partners like Northwestern Mutual that support us in continuing these initiatives.”

The new 10,000-square-foot pavilion, which replaces the seasonal tent pitched each spring and summer on the north lawn of the museum, is expected to host its first event in mid-July, which will be followed by Discovery World’s annual gala on July 28. The space will accommodate about 600 people, allowing Discovery World to host more and larger community events, Brennan said. It will serve as a lunchroom space for visiting students and host traveling exhibits, among other uses.

Discovery World currently serves about 300,000 visitors annually at its lakefront location, and as many as 100,000 more through its community outreach events.

The two new permanent exhibits include a new energy experience exhibit sponsored by We Energies, set to open in the fall, as well as a health and medical exhibit.

Other reconfigurations of the museum include the relocation of the gift shop, which will funnel visitors into the shop as they exit the exhibit space, and the relocation of employee offices, making room for a public access mezzanine level.

Brennan said the new additions are expected bring in additional $1 million per year in earned revenue. The organization’s annual revenue is about $8 million. Discovery World relies on earned revenue as it does not receive any direct public funds.

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