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Children's Museum, Library Announce Plans For New Building At Red Bridge Shopping Center

Courtesy Wonderscope Children's Museum
An architectural rendering of the Wonderscope Children's Museum of Kansas City's co-location with the Mid-Continent Public Library in the Red Bridge Shopping Center in south Kansas City.

Leaders of the Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City, which is currently located near Johnson Drive and Nieman Road in Shawnee, Kansas, announced Tuesday that they plan to raise $12 million for a new building in the Red Bridge Shopping Center at 112th and Holmes in south Kansas City.

Plans are to share the building with the Red Bridge location of the Mid-Continent Public Library.

“We envision a premier destination experience where families can celebrate play and children can tinker and experiment at their own pace,” Wonderscope’s executive director, Roxane Hill, said in a news release. “The environment will foster children's creativity and confidence with parents and caregivers learning right along with them.”

Credit Google Streetview
The Wonderscope Children's Museum's current location in Shawnee.

With a lead gift from V&H Charitable Foundation already in hand, Hill told KCUR, the museum hoped to break ground on a 30,000-square-foot building in a year, and open in two years.

The museum's news release said a new, centralized location would "provide greater visibility and accessibility enabling more participation by schools, families and children including lower-income communities."

The new construction would also solve a visibility problem for the Red Bridge location of the Mid-Continent Public Library, said Steven Potter, the library's director and CEO.

"It’s hard for people to find," Potter said, explaining that when the library negotiated its current lease, the J.C. Nichols Company wanted the library to blend in with the rest of the shopping center.

"And boy does it blend in," Potter said.

The shopping center is now owned, and being renovated, by Lane 4 Property Group.

While there's nothing structurally wrong with the library, Potter said, its capital plan called for nearly a million dollars' worth of upgrades. When the library heard of Wonderscope's plans, he said, the institutions began talking, conducted some studies and engaged an architectural firm for preliminary design ideas.

Credit Courtesty Mid-Continent Public Library
The Red Bridge branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.

With an infusion of funds as a result of the Proposition L levy passed by voters last November, the Mid-Continent Public Library, with 24 branches in three counties, plans renovations throughout the system as well as expansions of its collections, services, and programs. Potter said staff at the Red Bridge branch would work with the community on a needs assessment.

The Red Bridge branch's updates, Potter said, may involve "a folding in of the Wonderscope collaboration" as determined through "that public deliberative process."

Tuesday night, Potter said, the library's board planned to adopt a formal memorandum of understanding with Wonderscope.

He described the plans by making an analogy to a courtship. Tuesday would be "promise ring day," he said.

"Assuming everything moves forward, there will be an engagement ring. As we continue to work, and the fundraising campaign goes forward, we'll figure out what our public commitment is with Prop L, then we'll have a wedding ceremony a little further down the road."

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.

A free press is among our country’s founding principles and most precious resources. As director of content-journalism at KCUR, I want everyone in our part of America to know we see them and we’re listening. I work to make sure the stories we tell and the conversations we convene reflect our complex realities, informing and inspiring all of us to meet the profound challenges of our time. Email me at cj@kcur.org.
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