Children’s Museum stays, but building to be sold

lmorris@macon.comFebruary 16, 2012 

The building housing the Georgia Children’s Museum in downtown Macon is under contract to be sold, but the museum is to remain in place.

The building sits at the corner of Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The museum, which opened in 2005, is a nonprofit educational and cultural museum for children ages 2 to 12 and their families.

Museum Executive Director Mary Cay McCullough said the museum would stay in the same space it has now, which is on the first floor, a loft area and in the basement.

“I can say that we are very excited about the deal and about what it will enable us to do to move forward,” McCullough said. “But that’s about all I’m able to say at this time.”

McCullough said she was not in a position to discuss what would happen to the rest of the five-story building, and she declined to reveal the name of the developer.

“We are not ready to make comments on that just yet, because I don’t want to jeopardize the deal until it’s closed,” she said.

Mike Ford, CEO of NewTown Macon, said he only understood the property was under contract and was expected to close in March. He said NewTown was not involved with the deal.

The 34,000-square-foot building was built about 1881 and was the former Heilig-Meyers furniture store.

The museum’s nonprofit corporate entity, Mid-State Children’s Challenge Projects Inc., bought the building in 1998 for $425,000.

The museum opened in 2005 after several delays. McCullough came to the museum in early 2008, after it suffered nearly a year of financial trouble and closed doors.

Financial dilemmas and an administrative flight caused the museum to scale back in spring 2007. AmeriCorps, a federally funded community service program, pulled its funding from the museum and was investigating the nature of monetary expenditures in November 2007. The United Way, a second sponsor, severed ties shortly after.

The museum’s founder and former director, Tom Glennon, departed, and the museum was left with little in the way of a budget.

The only tax dollars the museum has received for the past two years has been $25,000 each year from the city of Macon, McCullough said. In exchange for that, the museum offers free admission for 16 hours a month to city residents. “Everything else is privately funded,” she said.

The museum has two full-time workers and three who work part-time. It is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The Children’s Museum has struggled just like other museums in Macon have, McCullough said.

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame closed in July 2011 after 15 years of operation. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, which was nearly shut down, has received the funding it needs to stay open at least three more years.

The pending sale will help the Children’s Museum get ahead for a change.

“That’s why we are excited about this deal,” McCullough said. “It’s going to put us in a completely and totally different place financially. We will no longer have a building that we’re not able to renovate. We will not have a mortgage hanging over our head that we currently have. It will allow us to move forward debt free and with reserves.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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