On Monday, City Council approved a public-private partnership providing the City with the ability to potentially secure 100 percent of its investment in a children’s museum by having the museum’s nonprofit pay for two-thirds of the museum’s annual operating costs.
According to the city, the arrangement is an atypical approach, which pays 100 percent of operating expenses for its other museums.
“The project’s original budget of $19.25 million was underfunded and not sufficient to provide even a very basic, scaled-back museum,” said Sam Rodriguez, Capital Improvement Department Director. “This model ensures better stewardship of public dollars as it leverages private dollars to deliver a truly quality project, and it establishes a limit for the City’s contribution toward construction of the children’s museum.”
Over a 20-year period, a savings of $1.2 million annually in operating costs could equate to more than $20 million in savings for the City.
Council’s action taken to realize the community’s vision of developing a world-class children’s museum included increasing its investment in the project beyond its original budget by matching one dollar for every one dollar raised privately.
The partnership terms were approved in response to private-sector stakeholders pledging to double their contribution to $20 million for this signature bond project overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012.
The total cost for design, construction, and exhibits is approximately $60 million.
With the increase, the City will cap its financial contribution to the project at $39.5 million. To manage this project, the City approved the creation of a Local Government Corporation. City Council will serve as the board for the corporation and manage the construction of the museum.
This is not the first time the City has used an LGC to complete a project, as they undertook a similar route during the construction of the baseball park.
“The City of El Paso is committed to building a world-class children’s museum, and this public-private partnership provides the best model to ensure the long-term financial success of this endeavor,” said Tracey Jerome, Director of the City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department.
Last August, Gyroscope Inc., an award winning, Oakland, California based design firm presented the Museum’s master plan that provided the framework for the architectural designs and incorporated public feedback seeking more than a traditional museum and a need for spaces and programming to engage multi-generational families.
“We greatly appreciate the tremendous support we have received from elected officials, City staff, and the effective leadership of our champions in the private sector,” said Dr. Paul Kortenaar, Founding Director, El Paso Children’s Museum. “As a stand-alone non-profit organization the El Paso Children’s Museum will thrive under this public-private partnership with the City of El Paso. We look forward to finalizing the design work needed to build this unprecedented project for our entire community.”
The museum will be located at 201 West Main, between the El Paso Museum of History and the El Paso Museum of Art, which are both within the Downtown Arts District.
According to city officials, the area attracts more than 1.5 million visitors per year.