The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) announced Wednesday that it has selected Explore-n-More Children’s Museum as the operator that will move forward with initial studies for a proposed “Children’s Experience” at Canalside.
Located in East Aurora, Explore-n-More Children’s Museum has been operating since 1994 and attracted nearly 48,000 visitors in 2011 at its current 6,500 square foot space. Attendance at Explore-n-More is spread evenly throughout the year and is divided 70/30 percent between adults and children. Seventeen percent of the attendance was from outside Erie County, demonstrating that the current facility, while small in size and in a difficult location to find, is already an attraction. School visits include classes from Pre-K through Grade 3.
Explore-n-More Children’s Museum was selected to be the operator of the “Children’s Experience” at Canalside based on its vision for a children’s museum at Canalside; its ability to meet the Canalside and Museum objectives in the RFP; its history of financial operations; its growth and consistency in attendance, its board strength and diversity; its ability to meet the project schedule; and its acknowledgement that the organization could meet the financial obligations of the planning phase in a reasonable timeframe.
The Explore-n-More proposal for a Children’s Museum at Canalside is adapted to the site’s history and culture, and is highly influenced by the Story of Buffalo. Most of the exhibits, including a marquee “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal” interactive exhibit, reflect the Story of Buffalo’s many themes and elements. It is anticipated that the museum will open Memorial Day 2016.
The contract amount will be a match, with ECHDC matching $1 for every $2 raised by the museum operator, and will not exceed $67,000. The funding source will be the New York Power Authority Relicensing Agreement.
“I am looking forward to our partnership with Explore-n-More,” said Maureen Hurley, chair of ECHDC Cultural Advisory Group. “ECHDC made a commitment to present the best mix of cultural offerings at Canalside, and I am confident that a “Children’s Experience” under the guidance of Explore-n-More will fulfill our mission to bring “The Story of Buffalo” to a wide audience of children and adults. I want to thank the citizen-volunteers of our Cultural Advisory Group for all of their hard work and dedication on this project.”
The next step is the completion of work that will determine the facility’s size and configuration, exhibits, capital and operational costs, and confirm Explore-n-More’s ability to fundraise the required capital. Explore-n-More will be required to complete a “Draft Museum Master Plan” by February 2013. A public involvement plan, approved by ECHDC, will be implemented by Explore-n-More as part of the Master Plan process. Additionally, Explore-n-More will be required to complete a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study in conjunction with the Draft Master Plan.
The Final Museum Master Plan based on the Feasibility Study and public input will be completed by May 2013 and submitted to the boards of both Explore-n-More and ECHDC. It is expected that the ECHDC will confirm its financial commitment to the “core & shell” of this project concurrent with the approval of the Final Museum Master Plan.
Once the Master Plan has received approval and ECHDC’s financial commitment is approved it is expected that Explore-n-More will complete capital fundraising within approximately 30 months of the approval date. Explore-n-More will be responsible for the selection of the design.