CORRECTION: A previous version of this article was titled, “Kidzu move prompts parking deck evaluation.” The evaluation is happening to maintain the parking deck, not because Kidzu plans to relocate there. The headline has been amended to reflect this change.
As Kidzu Children’s Museum plans a move to the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street, the site is undergoing a structural evaluation.
The structural assessment, which has so far cost Chapel Hill approximately $26,000, is necessary for proper maintenance of the 20-year-old structure.
“The main concern is that we’re taking care of our asset to make it last,” said Brenda Jones, town parking superintendent.
And though maintenance of the facility is the town’s main concern, town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said the evaluation is also a proactive measure to prepare for the planned Kidzu Children’s Museum location on top of the deck.
Kidzu, which is currently located at 123 W. Franklin St. in the soon-to-be-redesigned University Square, will move into Wallace Plaza, located on top of the deck, in late 2016. They hope to begin construction in late 2014 or early 2015.
The town of Chapel Hill has contracted with engineering firms Kimley-Horn and Associates and Falcon Engineering to evaluate the deck. Once evaluations are done, the firms will make recommendations for repair and restoration.
The deck’s last evaluation was in 1998.
One problem that has already been identified is water trapped under the deck.
“That’s nothing new,” Jones said. “We knew that we had problems with water being trapped below the surface. (The firms are) going to tell us if the water that’s there has damaged any of the structural soundness of the facility.”
The engineering firms have done a condition assessment of the deck and taken samples from various places around the deck for testing. Once testing is complete, the firms will then make further recommendations to the town.
The town unanimously voted to donate the space, valued at $4 million, to Kidzu in November 2009.
“It is, in fact, a very … whimsical, fantastic place to put something like a children’s museum,” said Pam Wall, Kidzu executive director. “It’s really a perfect fit for us.”
Plans for the museum at Wallace Plaza include a 15,000-square-foot indoor museum and a 7,500-square-foot outdoor exhibit area. Wall said the larger space would allow Kidzu to host more activities, such as birthday parties and field trips.
The museum’s current facility in University Square is 2,000 square feet with no outdoor exhibit space.
In advance of the University Square closing, the museum will move to a temporary space in University Mall in September until the Wallace Plaza space is complete.
It will stay in that location, which is larger than its current one, while it raises the $11 million necessary to complete the Wallace Plaza museum.
Wall said the museum will not lose its ties to downtown while at the mall.
“It’s very important to us to maintain the relationships that we have with downtown Chapel Hill while we’re at the mall,” Wall said.
“So we’ll be continuing the very valuable educational partnerships we have with other organizations like FRANK Gallery, Ackland Art Museum, Morehead Planetarium, Frank Porter Graham (Elementary School) and others.”
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