Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Betty Brinn Pulls Out of New Museum Complex

Milwaukee Public Museum still moving forward on new $240 million facility.

By - Apr 8th, 2022 05:22 pm
Milwaukee Public Museum Reef Rendering. Rendering Luci Creative

Milwaukee Public Museum Reef conceptual rendering. Rendering Luci Creative

Citing rising costs, the board of directors of the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum (BBCM) are bailing on the plan to relocate the museum to a joint museum complex with the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM).

The boards of both organizations announced the news in a joint press release Friday at 4:30 p.m.

“The Board of Directors for [BBCM] determined that it is no longer in the organization’s strategic best interest to pursue a move to a new construction building at this time,” said the statement. “As the planning process unfolded through 2021 and early 2022, budgetary calculations changed dramatically, both due to external pressures related to inflation and updated plans that would have called for additional costs to design and construct BBCM exhibits. These factors led BBCM to the difficult decision that it should not build and operate a new construction children’s museum as part of this project. BBCM will remain at its current location while it considers alternative opportunities. Both organizations wish each other the best of luck and much success as they move forward on separate paths.”

BBCM was to be a tenant of a renamed MPM in a new, $240 million complex planned for the northeast corner of N. 6th St. and W. McKinley Ave. The natural history museum confirmed it is still moving forward with a new facility.

“Planning for a new museum is certainly a challenge in the best of times, much less during a global pandemic and period of rising inflation. The milestones we have achieved in pursuing a new museum have required much creativity and flexibility, and we recognize that the BBCM Board of Directors knows what is in the best interest of their patrons and the future of their institution and we wish them the best,” said MPM board chair and Deloitte managing partner PJ DiStefano.

Milwaukee County pledged $45 million for the 230,000-square-foot complex last month, with the State of Wisconsin previously allocating $40 million. BBCM was to occupy approximately 30,000 square feet in the new building.

For the time being, BBCM will stay in its home in a Milwaukee County facility atop O’Donnell Park, 929 E. Wisconsin Ave.

“Though we have been energized by the process of imagining a new space and the possibilities associated with co-locating with MPM, we also must be realistic and responsible financial stewards for the long-term future of Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Given rising costs associated with our exhibit plans, the BBCM Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the project and rethink our future plans. We truly wish MPM the best and wholeheartedly support their project,” said BBCM board chair and Bader Rutter chairman Greg Nickerson.

“Conditions driven by the pandemic and the current inflationary environment have dramatically affected our exhibit budget projections, which were established back in mid-2020. For this reason, BBCM has decided we will no longer pursue co-location as a tenant at MPM’s new building; instead, we will continue to inspire children to wonder and explore their world through play in our current location,” said BBCM CEO Brian D. King.

BBCM and MPM jointly announced their intent to co-locate in September 2020. MPM, at the time, had already been pursuing a new location for five years.

A groundbreaking on the new facility is planned for late 2023 with a 2026 opening. Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater is partnering with Ennead Architects of New York City on the design. Thinc Design, also of New York City, is leading the exhibit design process. General contracting is being led by  partner of Mortenson Construction and ALLCON.

“We are pleased with the progress we have achieved toward the development of our new Museum, particularly the enthusiastic public support both the State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County have demonstrated as they committed funding for our project. While the addition of the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum would have added to the visitor experience, we understand that financial conditions have necessitated that they go in a different direction. We remain confident that visitors of all ages will be captivated by the new Museum experience,” said MPM President and CEO Ellen Censky.

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4 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Betty Brinn Pulls Out of New Museum Complex”

  1. Polaris says:

    How odd. A late Friday afternoon press release? You’d almost think the museums were trying to mitigate negative media scrutiny.

    And four quotes from the board chairs and CEOs that basically say the same thing? They’re really taking great pains to demonstrate a friendly break-up.

    Just sayin’…

  2. NieWiederKrieg says:

    President Biden pours $10-$20 billion dollars worth of lethal weapons into Ukraine every week… Can you imagine the kind of museum we could build if Biden gave us just $1 billion for a new Milwaukee museum instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars of our money on missiles, bombs, and bullets to kill defenseless Ukraine men, women, and children?

    And now Biden wants to pour $100 billion dollars worth of lethal weapons into Taiwan in order to start a US war against China…

    Joe Biden is a war criminal, not Putin…

  3. TransitRider says:

    Joe Biden isn’t bombing hospitals, Putin is.

  4. NieWiederKrieg says:

    @TransitRider –

    The people that told you lies such as “Iraq attacked America on 9/11”, “Iraq has WMDs”, and “Iraqi soldiers bayoneted babies in Kuwait hospital incubators”… are the same people that are lying to you now about the Ukraine war. “News reporters” on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, PBS, NPR, etc. read all the lies and propaganda written for them by Joe Biden and the Pentagon.

    Biden and Zelensky are preventing civilians from leaving Ukraine cities because Ukraine soldiers are using civilians as human shields. Civilians that flee the cities are killed by Ukraine soldiers, like the civilians at the train station and the civilians trying to leave the city of Bucha.

    Ukraine soldiers are stationed in hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, and areas where they are surrounded by civilians. Ukraine soldiers hide behind Ukraine civilians while they fire missiles and rockets at Russian troops.

    Please read this partial list of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” committed by the US…

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