Children's Museum Expansion

The Children's Museum of Houston is going to double it's building size and outreach programs. The museum is two-thirds of the way through a capital campaign and announced the plans to increase capacity and community services. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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More than a year ago, the Children's Museum of Houston began raising money for improvements. Museum officials considered expanding back in the late 1990s, but decided to wait. Museum Executive Director Tammie Kahn says a donor offered to help the museum expand at that time.

"The Board of Directors wanted, instead, to focus all of our resources on serving children in Houston, either onsite at the museum or offsite. So we really focused on program development and evaluation. Hence, it's been six years now since that problem was first brought to our attention."

Since that time, the museum has been operating at 160 percent capacity. The building was designed to accomodate 350,000 visitors annually. More than 600,000 people visit every year. And 40 percent of those visitors receive free admission through the museum's Open Door Policy for low-income families. Kahn says it's time to double the size of the museum.

"We will be taking out the existing water area, which is on the western side of the building. We will take down the support building on the south side of the property -- many people don't even realize it exists because it's hidden behind trees. And we will build a three-story addition to the museum that essentially is on the westbound part of the existing museum property. We'll increase our parking and then we will move all the staff offices across the street to a smaller auxillary building that we'll be building."

The museum needs to raise another $6 million before they can begin actual construction. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton is the honorary chair of the capital campaign. He says children's museums provide an opportunity for parents to enrich the learning experience for their children.

"I think kids learn within the context of their families and families learn within the context of a community."

Construction should begin early next year and wrap up in 2008. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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