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THEMUSEUM announces plans to expand in downtown Kitchener

BMO offers former branch, provides $1 million toward capital campaign

Article Via the Kitchener Post

THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener will be expanding into the neighbouring Bank of Montreal building at 2 King St. W, and according to those at the announcement Monday morning, the sky is the limit.

“We definitely want to talk to the community in a meaningful way to understand what the what is – what we will build, and how many floors it will take to build that out,” said THEMUSEUM’s CEO, David Marskell.

THEMUSEUM’s current space at 10 King St. W is 38,000 square feet over four floors. The footprint of the bank branch is only 8,500 square feet.

Marskell said there have already been preliminary discussions to see what could go above it, which might end up doubling the size of THEMUSEUM as we know it.

“I wouldn’t want to look back in ten years and say ‘Oh, we should have went bigger,’” said Marskell. “So the vision our board shares is let’s have the biggest vision we can have and aim for, and let’s see how the community responds.”

The cost of BMO’s building is approximately $3 million and was offered to THEMUSEUM as a first-right-of-refusal to allow the local arts and culture community to grow, said Julie Barker-Merz, senior vice president of BMO’s southwestern Ontario division.

The bank, which is moving into a different downtown location that’s yet to be divulged, is also providing $1 million for the museum to kick of its capital campaign.

“We believe that this is going to be a catalyst for others in the community to jump in and help build out what this community is so hungry for – a unified and world-class arts and culture community,” said Merz. “This entrepreneurial community has proven itself as a global leader in innovation. It’s now time for innovation to meet arts and culture, and BMO is proud to be leading this campaign …”

THEMUSEUM has struggled with financial sustainability in the past, in part due to its limited capacity, noted Frank Boutzis, president of THEMUSEUM’s board of directors.

“THEMUSEUM has helped create a cultural nexus at King and Queen, but we’ve also grown to host more than 100,000 people annually,” he said.

“Not only will this allow us to grow and flourish, it will also help us achieve through collaboration a critical mass for arts and culture – an anchor in the downtown in the midst of the renaissance we are all observing today.”

With the community growing by leaps and bounds, Marskell said THEMUSEUM needs to expand to survive. It was closed Monday to load in a new exhibit and lost revenue as a result.

“We need to have place so we can have three things going on over there and two things going on over here,” said Marskell, who looks forward to growing exhibits and programming catering to pop culture, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and young adults.

“In terms of time, I’d have to think it’ll be at least a couple of years,” he said, “but we have a lot of funders that are already very engaged with us, and this community can work very quickly as it did 15 years ago to open this space.”