The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday March 30th

Town assessing Kidzu

The Chapel Hill Town Council gave Kidzu Children's Museum encouragement Monday night when it rejected the staff recommendation to prevent its expansion to the Franklin Street post office. The council instead voted to form a committee that will work with Kidzu officials to assess relocation possibilities. Many of the council members expressed support for bringing Kidzu to the post office, rejecting the idea that the space could be better utilized by town offices and facilities. "(The recommendation) seems incompatible with a lot of what has been stated by this council as a priority for downtown," said council member Mark Kleinschmidt, citing the town's interest in developing a more cultural atmosphere. Council member Ed Harrison said that the situation at hand highlighted the town's crunch for affordable space downtown but that he still thought Kidzu was a good use of the post office location. "I have never envisioned the post office building as a place to put town offices," he said. Kidzu's current location at 105 E. Franklin St. was always intended as temporary, said Cathy Maris, the museum's executive director. It opened in 2006 with donations that covered rent for 20 months. "It was a great way for us to start," she said. "But it does have limitations that could prevent us from fulfilling our mission." Those limitations include space constraints that restrict how many visitors and exhibits the museum can host and therefore how much revenue it can generate, she said. The donation covering rent has run out, she said, and the museum now has to cover $85,000 in rent and occupancy costs. "Now that we have these significant occupancy costs, the limits on revenues that we can generate on our small space are particularly problematic." Kidzu is also considering two sites in Carrboro. One site is a 2.5 acre lot that was donated last week. The other is shared with the ArtsCenter of Carrboro. The benefit of either Carrboro site is the flexibility Kidzu will have in choosing how to use the space, Maris said. The donated lot is empty and donations will cover the construction costs. "We can create anything we want there," Maris said, although she expressed hesitance to leave Chapel Hill because of benefits they reap from their from proximity to UNC. The museum relies on volunteer and work-study students as staff and on the University to attract visitors, Maris said. Kidzu also has partnerships with 14 University organizations. "Being next to the University is a big deal for us," she said, citing Kidzu's goal of promoting educational innovation. "We believe that we can do that because of the intellectual capital of this town." Maris said expansion is urgent, regardless of where the museum goes. "It's essential that Kidzu secure an expansion site if it's going to survive." Contact the City Editor at


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