Covering Louisiana

Mar 22, 2014 2:11 PM by Doug Mccash

New Orleans Children's Museum plans City Park home

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Louisiana Children's Museum will occupy a new site in City Park by New Orleans' tercentennial in 2018 if all goes as planned.

The new H-shaped, three-story structure situated in an 8.5-acre space will be dubbed the Early Learning Village. It will be behind the New Orleans Museum of Art, to the east of Roosevelt Mall. Julia Bland, the Children's Museum chief operating officer, said an effort is being made to preserve the oak trees and small historic shelter building that now occupy the site.

The 52,000-square-foot new building, being designed by Mithun architects of Seattle with the Waggonner and Ball firm of New Orleans, will be smaller than the 60,000-square-foot 19th-century warehouse the museum now occupies.

But the new site will include an additional 26,000-square-foot outdoor environment.

The museum has an educational playground where a generation of Crescent City kids has experienced expansive games and activities. But the current Julia Street site the museum has occupied since 1986 has no outdoor area. Outdoor access in City Park will allow the museum to expand its programming to include a nature center for environmental experience and education.

It's important for children to understand the ecosystems of South Louisiana, Bland said, "especially for a part of the world with so many natural resources."

An edible garden will help illustrate botanical and nutritional lessons.

The City Park location, with onsite and nearby parking, also will be a more convenient destination for most of New Orleans and the region, Bland said. Since the City Park administration estimates there are 13 million visits to the park each year, the public awareness of the museum should increase considerably, Bland said.

According to notes on the museum's website, in addition to the nature center and edible garden, the future facility will include a literacy center, parent and teacher resource center, childcare center, performing arts center, kitchen and café.

Bland said that for the nonprofit organization to raise the $22 million investment in site preparation and construction plus added programming costs is an "ambitious campaign." But she's confident. The state legislature has committed to contributing $17 million in capital outlay money, she said. And the museum has accumulated additional money as well. Overall, the museum has raised $21 million so far, including the state commitment. The splendid warehouse the museum occupies now will be sold, Bland said.

But, she said, the museum hopes to minimize the amount of time the museum might be closed during the transition to two months.

The organization's budget is roughly $2 million per year, Bland said. That figure might rise slightly in the new location. The museum now welcomes 174,000 visitors per year.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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