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Kidzu readies for gifts, big move

Museum readies for plaza move

A year and a half after receiving approval to move into a larger location downtown, a local children’s museum is still working to collect donations to meet its fundraising goal.

Jonathan Mills, a member of the Kidzu Board of Directors and soon-to-be chairman of the capital campaign committee, says the museum is on track to complete its fundraising by late 2014.

The museum expects a major contribution to its efforts to come through a challenge grant it will soon receive, the donor of which will be announced in coming weeks, Mills said.

“If we raise ‘X’ amount of dollars, they will give us ‘X’ amount of dollars,” he said.

Kidzu, a museum for children located at 105 E. Franklin St., received permission in November 2009 from the town to lease the Wallace Parking Plaza on Rosemary Street for $1 per year for 99 years.

The move will cost between $11 million and $11.5 million, but the town’s donation of the plaza contributed $4 million, Mills said.

Kidzu received a $1 million pledge and $225,000 in donations, and the museum expects to continue raising money through donations from individuals, foundations and businesses in the community, Mills said.

Despite a slow economy, Mills said Kidzu’s donor base has grown during the last 18 months thanks to the efforts of the board of directors and volunteers.

And as the economy turns around, Mills said he expects the support base to grow even more.

“One or two people can’t build a children’s museum,” Mills said. “It needs to be a community effort.”

The museum is also looking for an interim site for the next two years to save money, Mills said.

He said he expects the move to an interim site will save Kidzu hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mills said the museum is looking at two possibilities for interim locations, which they will announce in about a month.

Chapel Hill resident Cindy Sellars, a mother of three, comes to Kidzu about once every few weeks with her one-and-a-half-year old twins.

Sellars said though she is happy with the current location, she thinks it is great that there will be more parking and a bigger space in the plaza.

“I would love to see more family activities downtown,” she said.

Mills said he wants the long-term location of Kidzu to change the area’s image.

“We really want the rooftop of the parking deck to no longer be thought of as the rooftop of the parking deck,” he said. “We want it to be the plaza.”

His vision includes people coming to the area even if they do not want to visit the museum.

“It will have character,” he said. “If you look downtown now, there isn’t that space yet. There are some benches on the sidewalk, but they’re small. It’s not a place to be.”

Butch Kisiah, director of the town Department of Parks and Recreation, said he is looking forward to Kidzu’s downtown expansion.

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“We just think it’s a good partnership, and hopefully we can continue to work together and have a successful Kidzu,” he said.

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