Naperville museum's 'surprise, delight' moves to Aurora mall

  • Naperville Mayor George Pradel greets visitors Friday as the temporary location of the DuPage Children's Museum opens at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora.

      Naperville Mayor George Pradel greets visitors Friday as the temporary location of the DuPage Children's Museum opens at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Mary Lou Manzo, nanny of Chase Sterchi, 2, works with colored tiles Friday at DCM@The Mall, a temporary location of DuPage Children's Museum to be open at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora until water damage repairs are complete on the museum's building in Naperville.

      Mary Lou Manzo, nanny of Chase Sterchi, 2, works with colored tiles Friday at DCM@The Mall, a temporary location of DuPage Children's Museum to be open at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora until water damage repairs are complete on the museum's building in Naperville. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Nikko Barczak, 4, of Aurora, and his 2-year-old sister Alessandra set their sights on a coin spinner Friday at the DuPage Children's Museum's temporary hub at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora.

      Nikko Barczak, 4, of Aurora, and his 2-year-old sister Alessandra set their sights on a coin spinner Friday at the DuPage Children's Museum's temporary hub at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Saul Cuautle, 5, and his brother Santiago, 2, of Plano, get some playtime in Friday as the DuPage Children's Museum opens DCM@The Mall at Westfield Fox Valley in Aurora.

      Saul Cuautle, 5, and his brother Santiago, 2, of Plano, get some playtime in Friday as the DuPage Children's Museum opens DCM@The Mall at Westfield Fox Valley in Aurora. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/6/2015 4:04 PM

A miniature version of the DuPage Children's Museum opened Friday at Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora, one month after the Naperville museum closed because of damage from a broken water pipe.

Leaders celebrated a moment of fun amid the challenge of repairs as smiling kids popped balloons during ribbon-cutting speeches and poured into the new playspace.

 

"I'm excited," said Hiroki Ogawa, business services coordinator, who oversaw the eight-day transformation of a vacant store into a mini museum. "Look at these kids' faces -- you can't really ask for anything more."

Aurora siblings Nikko and Alessandra Barczak, 4 and 2, were among the happy faces playing with a coin spinner, wooden blocks, plastic building pieces and train sculptures at the new space, called DCM@The Mall. The kids' nanny, Laura Boland, said they were sad when the Washington Street museum closed Jan. 9 after a broken pipe flooded all three floors.

"They were really upset; they loved that place," Boland said. "Any place where they can go and play and it's just a better atmosphere, they can be learning something."

The museum will make DCM@The Mall its home until late spring, when its original venue is expected to open after millions of dollars in repairs, said Sarah Orleans, president and CEO. The 3,000-square-foot store used to be P.S. from Aeropostale, a kids' clothing shop, so it already had a child-friendly look with light wood floors, wall paneling and a decorative white ceiling, said Scott Samson, general manager of Westfield Fox Valley.

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Samson said P.S. closed about a month ago and mall executives wanted something interactive to open on the second floor near Carson Pirie Scott. Samson said he had to explain to his 5-year-old daughter why they couldn't visit the museum last month, which got him thinking that it could be the perfect temporary tenant. The mall is providing the space rent-free.

"It's a mutual benefit ... We'll be able to have another reason to surprise and delight our shoppers," Samson said. "It's important to put kids in situations where they're excited about learning and discovery."

Orleans said employees salvaged what they could from the waterlogged building and set it up at the mall. But the Creativity Connections exhibit on the first floor, known for moving and intertwining parts, suffered the most damage. That exhibit will be redesigned, infrastructure for an upcoming AWEsome Energy exhibit will be completed and decorative changes will be made to give the museum a fresh feel, Orleans said.

"We've decided to really take advantage of having to be closed so long," Orleans said.

Museum employees and volunteers will staff DCM@The Mall during shopping center hours, generally 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. But Orleans said roughly 30 employees who were laid off, most of them part-time, remain out of a job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When you don't have your facility, it's not logical or financially sound to keep those people on," Orleans said.

When the museum reopens, Orleans said she hopes to offer many of those jobs back.

Until then, the museum will be collecting donations instead of set admission fees at its Aurora satellite location.

"We are very pleased to have the DuPage Children's Museum here even if only briefly. It's a wonderful asset to the entire DuPage community," Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said. "Beyond having fun, our kids are really learning how to use their minds in a constructive way."

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