The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 14, 2014

Historical Society has plans to expand

County asked to help purchase VINE space

MANKATO — After 26 years as roommates, Mankato's senior citizens center and the Blue Earth County Historical Society are breaking up on July 1.

VINE Faith in Action, which operates the senior center, is moving out of the building at Cherry and Fifth Streets to the newly renovated Nichols Office Building down the street, leaving the Historical Society looking forward to a lot more elbow room but also a lot of new financial obligations.

Historical Society leaders announced Tuesday that they want to buy VINE's 50 percent ownership of the current building — part of an ambitious long-term plan to expand its exhibit space, provide desperately needed storage room for its large collection of artifacts and improve accessibility to the facility. Their first stop was the Blue Earth County Board, where they asked for a $57,500 donation to cover the down payment the society will have to make on July 1 if it is going to exercise its option to take full ownership of the building.

If the board agrees, that will be only the first step. An appraisal done after VINE gave notice of its plans to leave the building puts the building's value at $575,000, meaning that the society will ultimately have to come up with $287,500 to purchase the half of the facility it doesn't already own.

"So we're planning to launch a capital campaign," said Jessica Potter, executive director of the society.

The purchase is the initial phase of a multi-year plan that could also involve an expansion of the building eastward.

"That's something that's phase two, down the road," Potter said.

Sole ownership — while seen as an exciting opportunity for the long-cramped museum, research center, archive and artifact storage site — will also bring 100 percent responsibility for the building's operational expenses such as utilities and repairs. Potter and Historical Society President Randy Zellmer told the board that additional operating expenses means they will be seeking additional annual donations from the county as well.

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