MANKATO — The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is asking the city of Mankato to donate its downtown bus garage for the new home of the museum.
The site has several advantages — such as an 11,000-square-foot garage that would make a great exhibit gallery — over current plans to build on the site of a former Ember’s building, said Peter Olson, executive director of the museum.
“The more we’ve looked at it, the more we’ve realized that it’s not only suitable, but it increases the vision, makes it better,” Olson said of the bus garage site, located just north of Riverfront Drive on Lamm Street. The children’s museum is now at an interim site on the corner of Cherry and South Second streets.
Last summer, the council turned down a request to donate $250,000 to acquire the former Ember’s site, but Olson is hoping the council will see this as a way to help the museum without spending any money.
The city is building a new transit facility near its public works headquarters on Victory Drive, but it won’t be finished until late 2014, City Manager Pat Hentges said. Even so, the city has short-term options and could be out of the building later this year, he said.
The bus garage could accommodate all of the exhibits the museum has been planning, Olson said, including the Tree of Forts Climber, the signature exhibit for which the Mankato Clinic donated $500,000. The planned-for rooftop farm would move to ground level.
“The farm becomes a better museum experience because we’ll have much more interior space for an exhibit that’s all about modern agriculture,” Olson said.
The new site also includes two acres of outdoor space, much more than the Ember’s site.
Linda Frost, chair of the children’s museum board, said an existing building, preferably downtown, had been the goal all along. That desire, along with a goal to collaborate with local government, would be satisfied with the garage site.