Betty Brinn Children’s Museum abandons a planned new facility that would have housed it with the Milwaukee Public Museum.
The decision was due to rising costs, according to a Friday announcement from the two museums.
“As the planning process unfolded through 2021 and early 2022, budget calculations changed dramatically, both due to external inflationary pressures and updated plans that would have required additional costs to design and build BBCM exhibits,” the statement read.
“These factors led BBCM to the difficult decision not to build and operate a new children’s museum as part of this project,” he said.
The children’s museum will remain at its facility at O’Donnell Park, 929 E. Wisconsin Ave., “while it considers other opportunities,” the statement said.
Betty Brinn was a highly visible but relatively small part of the $240 million project.
It would have used 33,000 square feet in the 230,000 square foot building, to be developed north of West McKinley Avenue and east of North Sixth Street.
The new building is to feature exhibit space totaling 80,000 square feet for the Milwaukee Public Museum, which will be renamed the Wisconsin Museum of Nature and Culture under a newly organized structure.
The museum must also have underground parking, a café, a gift shop, research and storage of collections, a classroom, an auditorium, a venue for events, offices and an exhibition maintenance workshop.
It would replace the 480,000 square foot public museum building, located at 800 W. Wells St., which has approximately 150,000 square feet of exhibit space. Museum officials say the 59-year-old building is in poor condition.
With Betty Brinn no longer part of the project, the museum will work with the project’s architects on changes to the conceptual design plans, a museum representative told the Journal Sentinel.
The design process for the new facility is not expected to be completed until late 2022.
The announcement comes just over three weeks after the new development scored a big win: Approval by the county council of $45 million in county funds to help finance the new building.
With this vote, the museum is stepping up its $150 million private fundraising campaign. The museum has also secured $40 million from the state and is seeking $5 million in federal grants.
Museum officials want to begin construction in late 2023, with completion in spring 2026.
The new facility, just north of the Fiserv Forum parking structure, is to be renamed the Wisconsin Museum of Nature and Culture — a nod to statewide fundraising as well as status of the institution as the most visited museum in Wisconsin.
The cost to design and build the new museum and its exhibits is estimated at $190 million.
Additional costs include $25 million for museum endowment, $20 million to move collections, and $5 million to pay for fundraising and project management.
Children’s museum officials said Friday they wished public museum officials well with their plans for the new facility.
“While we have been energized by the process of imagining a new space and the possibilities associated with co-locating with MPM, we must also be realistic and responsible financial stewards for the long-term future of the Betty Children’s Museum. Brinn,” Greg Nickerson said. , chairman of the children’s museum board, in a statement.
“We really wish MPM the best and wholeheartedly support their project,” Nickerson said.
Public museum officials said, indeed, no hard feelings.
“Planning a new museum is certainly a challenge at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic and a time of rising inflation,” PJ DiStefano, president of the public museum, said in a statement.
“The steps we have taken in pursuing a new museum have required a great deal of creativity and flexibility, and we recognize that the BBCM Board knows what is in the best interest of its patrons and the future of his institution and we wish him the best,” said DiStefano.