After seeing continued growth over 12 years of operation, Kidzu Children’s Museum is currently working with the Town of Chapel Hill to explore the idea of expanding and relocating the museum from University Place to a town-owned property in Southern Village.
Museum officials went before the Chapel Hill Town Council in March to ask for support from the Town as they began exploring the Southern Village site. The council unanimously voted to receive the museum’s request and begin researching the potential move.
Donna Bell, a council member, said the council recognized the potential benefits the Town might see through a partnership with Kidzu and the construction of a larger children’s museum.
Bell said a new museum would not only serve the educational needs of children in the area but could also bring economic development benefits to the town.
“Working with Kidzu has been something that has been part of conversations between the town and the organization for years, so this looks like a good opportunity,” Bell said.
Lisa Van Deman, executive director of Kidzu, said the museum’s ultimate goal has always been to create a “right-sized” children’s museum that can best serve the community and the educational needs of children in Chapel Hill and the surrounding area.
“We need to be of a certain size to have the variety of exhibits and programs that would be appealing and engaging to that wide of a range,” Van Deman said.
Van Deman said the Town Properties Task Force assembled an inventory of available town-owned properties and directed museum officials to consider a plot fronting Southern Village as a potential relocation site.
The close proximity to family-friendly spaces such as Scroggs Elementary School and Southern Community Park was enough to convince Van Deman this was the perfect location for a new children’s museum. She was also excited that the location is just as close to UNC’s campus because the museum’s current space employs several work-study students and student interns.
With a larger facility, Van Deman said there would be the opportunity for more flexible and multi-purpose space to be used for events such as hosting field trips and birthday parties. In addition, the site would allow for much more outdoor space than the current location offers.
Van Deman said Kidzu will present more conceptual ideas about the new museum to the Town in early 2019, including a basic design for the new space, and ask the town to create a resolution to partner with Kidzu on this relocation.
Carrboro resident Hillary Prazak is a member at Kidzu and said she brings her 21-month-old son to the museum once or twice a week. She said she’s excited for a larger space for her son to grow into.
“I like Kidzu, and I like the location here, but it is kind of small,” she said. “It’s perfect for the little guys right now, but as they get bigger, a bigger space will be nice.”
Sarah Owens, another member at Kidzu and a Carrboro resident, said Kidzu provides a space for her 15-month-old son to play and learn when it’s too hot or cold to visit an outdoor park. Owens said she was looking forward to Kidzu having more of an outdoor space for her son to learn and play in, but she wasn’t sold on the location.
“It is a bummer because it’s just that much further away,” she said. “This current location is just nice and central to all of Chapel Hill, while Southern Village is a little more out of the way for me.”
Van Deman said the community has been supportive of the potential relocation so far. She said this process will take a few years, with the need to get final approvals, raise money and design and construct the space. But, for the time being, Kidzu will continue to serve the community from its current location.
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