The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday March 30th

Busy Kidzu looking for larger location

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, this story incorrectly states the size of the Kidzu space. It is 2,700 square feet. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. With a Starbucks, Goodfellas and Qdoba lining the block, Franklin Street will never be short of college co-eds. Now Kidzu Children's Museum is working to make sure it never wants for three- and four-year-olds, either. Kidzu, which opened March 7, since has become a downtown staple and an overnight success. "We knew it was going to be successful, but we didn't know it was going to be this huge a success in such a short amount of time," said Jonathan Mills, president of the board of directors for the museum. Mills added that the museum garnered 20,000 visitors in seven and a half months - a landmark they had hoped to meet by a year after opening. But as the spot gains more recognition and more visitors, it needs more room. "In order to provide the programming necessary, we need to have more space," Mills said. The space in which Kidzu currently is housed is about 27,000 square feet. "It's a very limited amount of programming available," he said. But Kidzu hopes to stay close to the Chapel Hill downtown, and so petitioned the council Monday with a proposal of leasing the courthouse and post office building starting in January 2009. "Locating Kidzu in 179 E. Franklin Street creates an excellent win-win situation for the museum and the town," the proposal reads, citing the placement of a family- and tourist-friendly landmark in the center of downtown. "Happy kids walking down the street creates a place where people want to be," Mills said at the council meeting. He also emphasized at the meeting that the building will be a mixed-use facility housing the children's museum, meaning the courthouse and post office will continue to operate. Bringing families downtown is important for the town government, Mills said, to increase visits during the day when college students are in class. "One reason it's really important for us to be downtown is that it's a great economic development tool," Mills said. "It's something that's been missing in our downtown." Council member Cam Hill agreed that Kidzu has been an important landmark on Franklin Street, but he is not making any promises yet. "I think we want to do everything we can to keep them downtown," he said. "I'm not ready to say that they will take over the post office." Mills said the museum is looking seriously at four spots in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham. It is important for the museum to stay close to downtown, he said, partly because of its interaction with the University. Mills cited the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the UNC School of Education and student volunteers as important resources for the museum. The bigger space primarily will be used to increase the age span of the museum - from children 6 and under to children 12 and under - and to expand programming. Kidzu now is closed until Jan. 22 in preparation for its new interactive exhibit entitled "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood." The exhibition comes from a children's museum in Pittsburgh. But new exhibits bring new guests, and increased attendance has led to longer lines to get into the museum, Mills said. "A four-year-old child should never have to wait outside in the rain to get into a children's museum," he said. "That's terrible." Contact the City Editor at


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