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New museum could be addition to community center

If all goes as planned, the Becker County Museum will be moving just steps away into a newly constructed building that will attach to The Center. (file photo)

The Becker County Historical Society wants to build a $6 million addition to the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center to hold its new history museum and kids' science museum.

Historical Society Director Becky Mitchell briefed the Becker County Board about the project on Tuesday, and was gratified to hear that commissioners continue to support $1 million in county funding for the project, which was originally pegged at about $3.5 million.

"We're still exploring federal tax credits, which will cut about $1 million off the price tag," she said.

The Historical Society has raised about half a million dollars through individual pledges, and plans to soon launch a comprehensive capital campaign to raise the rest, Mitchell added.

Making the museum an addition to the community center brings a lot of advantages, Mitchell said. The new museum will have its own air distribution system, but will be able to link to the community center's hot and cold water system. And it will be able to use the community center's existing elevator.

A combined box office and gift shop area would allow the community center and museum to share staffing, and a coffee shop, complete with drive-through, would attract people to the facility. Several local coffee shops are interested in the location, and it would provide sustainable income to the museum, she added.

The museum also hopes to benefit from the 1,000 or so daily users of the community center, who would be able to "go from the pool to the museum without going outside," she said.

The gift shop will continue to feature books with a strong local flavor. "We revitalized our bookshop when we remodeled in May, and that's been doing really well," she said.

The new museum would offer almost 2,000 additional square feet of exhibition space.

The brick exterior would match the existing community center. The county museum will be on the ground floor and the children's science museum on the second floor. The basement would have ample room for storage.

"The response from the public has been really positive," Mitchell said. "Especially people with young kids, they're excited by this plan."

Parking shouldn't be a problem, she added. "If all the available lots are developed, we'd end up with about 50 additional parking spots on that block," she said.

The existing museum, which is located in a former church building next to the community center, is suffering from water leakage and water damage, Mitchell said, and badly needs to be replaced.