Hentges said any private sector interest in the site likely would have involved demolition of the building. The property was appraised at $150,000, primarily for the land. Because of poor soil at the site, there's a good chance any private developer would have also sought a discount on the price to offset the cost of soil corrections, according to Hentges.
"That's really brought us back around to this," he said of the request by the leaders of the Children's Museum, which is now operating at a small temporary location at Second and Cherry streets.
The museum won't be a big employer — the equivalent of about eight full-time jobs — but is projected to draw children and families downtown. Museum organizers estimate 40,000-50,000 visits a year.
Possession of the property is expected to be transferred no later than Sept. 1, and opening day for the new museum is now likely to arrive sometime in 2014.
Willard is confident visitors will be impressed. The breadth of the community support and the experience of the exhibit designers drawn to the project is creating a new museum that is beyond even the lofty dreams of the museum's founders in 2006.
"It's way beyond," she said.