DuPage Children's Museum staying put in Naperville's 5th Ave. redevelopment site
DuPage Children's Museum officials intend to keep the Naperville landmark on a city-owned site that falls within 13 acres targeted for redevelopment, answering one of the major questions around the massive 5th Avenue project near the Metra train station.
A working group of city and museum officials has spent more than six months studying whether the institution should remain at the colorful 301 N. Washington St. building or move to make way for commuter parking or another use as part of efforts to redevelop 5th Avenue area.
The city and museum announced Friday that officials have decided to have the museum stay put, meaning developers will have to integrate the 48,000-square-foot facility into plans to add nearly 400 apartments, condos, brownstones and a mix of office, retail and flexible space to the 5th Avenue district.
"Ultimately, none of the locations presented a viable solution for DCM's relocation; as such, it is anticipated that DCM will remain a vital component of the 5th Avenue redevelopment project," the joint statement read. "No additional locations are currently being evaluated, and there are no active efforts to pursue additional potential locations."
Museum President and CEO Sarah Orleans said two alternative locations emerged as strong possibilities and the focus of the group's efforts, but there were too many unknowns with the feasibility of both options. One was the former Kmart property in an East Ogden shopping center. The group was adamant that the museum had to stay in Naperville, she said.
"There was not a financial path forward in either one of those," Orleans said of the two contenders.
Orleans said members will be "hugely relieved" to have an answer to the museum's future. Visitors have routinely asked front-desk employees about a possible relocation, and the museum has received "thousands of letters" about what should happen to the community staple that drew 329,186 people during the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The decision also leaves the museum without a major uncertainty as the board searches for a new leader to succeed Orleans after five hears at the helm. The search has attracted candidates from "all over the country," with interviews set to begin in June, Orleans said.
"The new person gets to be that vision for the next 10 years," she said. "It's good to know where we are right now."
The working included Mayor Steve Chirico, Councilwoman Patty Gustin and City Manager Doug Krieger as well as museum staff and board members.
"For more than six months, the working group collaborated with the goal of ensuring that DCM, a major cultural attraction for the Western suburbs, continues to thrive as a community asset in Naperville," the statement read. "Guided by financial sustainability and mutually beneficial outcomes, these partners investigated the viability of DCM's relocation within the Naperville community, navigating a complex decision-making environment of financial, legal and logistical considerations that had to be carefully assessed."
Museum leaders said in the statement they remain open to working with the city, developers and others to "explore the best potential growth options."
The museum opened at its current site in 2001 and has a lease with the city until 2031.