MANKATO — The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota has announced plans to build a permanent museum in downtown Mankato.
Executive Director Peter Olson said $1.66 million has been pledged so far, including $1 million from Lyle and Kay Jacobson. Ridley, Inc., and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association have pledged $100,000 apiece.
Olson said $4 million is needed to build the museum.
He asked the City Council Monday for $250,000 to buy a parcel from developer Mike Brennan. It’s located on the former Ember’s restaurant site, next to the Blue Earth County Library. An appraisal performed for Brennan showed the lot was worth $280,000, though he agreed to sell it for the lower amount.
In his pitch, Olson emphasized the economic benefits the museum would bring to Mankato, such as an annual economic impact of $5 million. That money would come from the estimated 50,000 yearly visitors to the museum.
Olson said the museum would “fill in a nice, big empty hole right in the middle” of downtown.
The main floor of the museum would be dominated by a large tree for climbers and day-dreamers. The roof would have a farm park with plants and rabbits.
The council was, for the most part, hesitant to get Olson’s hopes up.
Councilwoman Tamra Rovney noted other organizations have asked the council for money, and have been turned down.
About a year ago, VINE Faith in Action asked the Mankato council for $500,000 to build a senior center. The council didn’t respond to the request — effectively a “no,” at least for now.
Councilman Charlie Hurd agreed: “There will be many other proposals brought forward.”
Council President Mike Laven was the biggest supporter. He said $250,000 is regularly spent on roads and parks, so it might be reasonable for a children’s museum.
He didn’t support writing a check right away, though.
City Manager Pat Hentges said staff are compiling a list of requests for public money. He said the sales tax might be a possible funding source for a children’s museum, though the Legislature would have to approve changing the tax.
Councilwoman Karen Foreman asked about the museum’s operating costs.
Olson said children’s museums tend to get about 65 percent of their operational budgets from customers and 35 percent from donors. In this case, he said the museum would need to raise about $140,000 per year in donations.
If the nonprofit raises enough money, Olson said it can break ground in the spring.
Since the children’s museum organized in 2006, it has had three temporary sites, most recently at 121 E. Cherry Street.