To cover the cost of a $10 million renovation to its Chestnut Street facility, Chattanooga's Creative Discovery Museum is asking the city and Hamilton County to donate $500,000 each.
In a presentation to the Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday, representatives of the children's educational museum gave commissioners an overview of the project announced in late January, for which they have already raised nearly $5.8 million.
The money would go toward a face-lift for the 43,000-square-foot building, and would be just the second such renovation of the iconic downtown building since its opening in 1995. But, more importantly, the money would expand available learning resources in the museum, according to Executive Director Henry Schulson.
"Our vision is to help make Chattanooga the best place for a child to grow up and our plan is definitely an integral part of that vision," Schulson said. "What we'd like to do is ask the county to consider an investment. — Our goal is to try and ask everyone in the community to participate in one way or another."
Schulson said the group will ask for an equal donation from the city council at next week's meeting, and it is also "looking at" seeking a contribution from the state.
While the organization was met with general positivity by the commission, there was notable trepidation around the half-million-dollar ask.
District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd said the money should come from the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, an organization that receives travel-related tax money to fulfill its mission of "strengthen[ing] the area economy through the marketing and promotion of the Chattanooga area as a year-round destination for meetings, conventions, sporting events and leisure travel," according to its website.
"Henry, you're on the board of the CVB; how much money are you asking for?" District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd asked Schulson. "You're asking us for $500,000. I think that $500,000 should come out of the hotel/motel tax [which goes to the CVB]."
Schulson said the group was going to seek money from the CVB as well, but that the criteria and available funds were not finalized.
CVB President Barry White was in the audience and offered an explanation of the $600,000 in available funds.
"We are creating a mechanism to support efforts like [the redesign] and we are in process of preparing guidelines," White said. "We will have a total of about $600,000 that we will be granting out every year — but it goes through an application process, it will be evaluated and grants awarded. So, I can't tell you how much will be awarded because we don't yet have an application or anything like that, but this project is pretty much exactly one of the things that we create this process for."
District 1 Commissioner Randy Fairbanks suggested that an entity could make a pledge to donate whatever amount, but actually pay it to the museum over the five-year redesign period.
"That would pretty much use all of your budget," Fairbanks said of the $500,000 request. "But maybe if you have $600,000 a year and you could spread your donation to them, maybe over a few years, then all of your money wouldn't be going in one place."
The museum hopes to have all of the $10 million from public and private partners pledged by its "25th birthday" in May.
It is unclear if or when the commission will consider the donation, but multiple commissioners asked for the museum to share more details on its existing partnerships so commissioners could help facilitate more community partnerships in their respective districts.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at 423-757-6416 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.