Monday, March 03, 2014

Perfect Spot For A Museum

I’ve been watching with interest what is going on in the part of Downtown Durham, North Carolina where West Village Phase three is currently under construction.  That’s the building going up in what was a surface parking lot behind the Museum of Durham History’s “History Hub.”

I eat dinner in that area frequently and one thing is for sure, parking is already getting harder to find.  It made me remember an idea I shared with a friend of mine at the City in the 1990s to put a deck in one or both of the surface lots dividing across from Brightleaf Square.

That adjacent district has been in need of more parking since the late 1980s.  This all made me wonder what will happen when the Chesterfield Building which is on the cusp of the two districts and recently sold to Wexford Science & Technology, comes online.

It is clear that adaptive reuse of this building known as the “New Cigarette Factory,” when it opened in 1948 and is one of the few historic tobacco factories and warehouses remaining to transform, will make a parking deck between the two districts even more imperative.

Which brings me to another thought I introduced in a blog last fall.

Wouldn’t it be great if local officials and museum advocates could use the street level of a future nearby parking deck as the home for the permanent version of the Museum of Durham History?

Examples to adapt are ones a friend saw planned in Sarasota, Florida which make use of the ground floor for uses such as this and incorporates a building wrap to disguise that it is a deck as well as multi-use space on top including residential.

Museums are a perfect accompaniment to space needed for offices in the daytime because with the exception of weekends, their attendance trickles instead of sporadically surging like other types of cultural facilities.

The average size for a local history museum is 30,000 square feet but only half of that is required for displays.  The remainder is used for offices, artifact, photograph and document storage and space to curate exhibits.

To minimize space for the latter is where Duke University’s support for the museum would be a good fit.  Duke has space where it stores special collections and arranged exhibitions.

None of this will be lost on a good friend who was an early museum proponent and now serves as director of development for Wexford Science & Technology, a developer of urban research parks such as the one planned for the “Chesterfield Building.”

Probably 99% of the people who pay attention to Bull City Mutterings don’t live in Durham, heck, half don’t even live in the United States.  I write about Durham more as an example.

Hopefully, this is useful to Durham readers or those of you from elsewhere who are trying to minimize costs for cultural facilities.

If not, from what I read, there may be a lot of former Wal-Mart space coming on the market soon.

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