Children's museum wants OK to seek Naperville grants

  • The DuPage Children's Museum wants to be able to apply for grants from the city of Naperville's Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund, but such applications are prohibited in the museum's lease with the city, which owns the building at 301 N. Washington St.

      The DuPage Children's Museum wants to be able to apply for grants from the city of Naperville's Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund, but such applications are prohibited in the museum's lease with the city, which owns the building at 301 N. Washington St. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Sarah Orleans, who took over in February as president and CEO of the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville, says she wants the museum to be able to apply for Special Events and Cultural Amenities grants from the city. She is seeking an amendment to the museum's lease to allow it to seek money available each year from a 1 percent food and beverage tax.

      Sarah Orleans, who took over in February as president and CEO of the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville, says she wants the museum to be able to apply for Special Events and Cultural Amenities grants from the city. She is seeking an amendment to the museum's lease to allow it to seek money available each year from a 1 percent food and beverage tax. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer/February 2014

 
 
Updated 10/6/2014 10:28 AM

The DuPage Children's Museum wants to apply for grants from the city of Naperville, but its lease with the city prevents it from seeking funding.

The museum on Tuesday will appear before the city council to ask for an amendment to the lease so it can apply for future grants from the Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund, commonly referred to as SECA.

 

The lease began in 2011 after the city paid $3 million to help buy the building and property on which the museum is located at 801 N. Washington St. Starting in 2016, the museum will owe the city yearly rent of at least $62,056, which will be adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index.

"The city, through purchasing the building and entering into a lease with them (the museum) helped them eliminate a fairly significant cost component -- basically their mortgage," City Manager Doug Krieger said.

One of the terms of the 20-year lease is that the museum cannot request or receive any money from the SECA fund, Krieger said.

The fund, built from a 1 percent food and beverage tax, is used to support events, exhibits, concerts, educational efforts and cultural programs chosen through a yearly application process.

"I'm really requesting that we have the ability to participate in the process," said Sarah Orleans, DuPage Children's Museum president and CEO. "I would think the city wouldn't want to prevent anybody from participating in that process, especially an institution like the children's museum, which is a poster child of the kind of things you want to support."

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The fund already helps the city repay itself for its contribution to the purchase of the museum in October 2010, Krieger said. Of about $2 million available in this year's SECA funding, $150,000 went to help pay back money the city spent out of its general fund to buy the property.

The property was purchased as part of an intergovernmental effort whereby the state contributed $1.94 million, private donors contributed $700,000 and DuPage County provided $250,000. The remainder came from a $3.25 million write-down by Chase Bank, which held the museum's $9.4 million note.

Even before the museum starts paying rent to the city, Orleans said SECA money could help her staff members develop more new exhibits.

One of the museum's latest additions is AWEsome Electricity, the first part of its three-exhibit series called AWEsome Energy. The second phase, about air, will open next spring, while the third, featuring water, is expected to open in about a year. Orleans said the museum is on track to launch those exhibits as scheduled, but still must raise one-third of the needed funds.

That's where SECA grants could come in, she said.

"It could be a good source of funds to help build new exhibits ... to embolden and strengthen programming, and in our case, exhibits at the museum," Orleans said.

Applications for the next round of SECA funding, which mirrors the city's next budget year and runs May 1, 2015, through April 30, 2016, are beginning now. Requests must be submitted by Oct. 31.

The city council could decide to remove or retain the lease term prohibiting the museum from seeking SECA money. The council also could restrict how SECA funds could be used or when the museum could begin applying for the grants.

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