By Kevin King
Beaumont City Council agreed to move forward in negotiations with the Beaumont Children’s Museum to lease meeting rooms in the Beaumont Civic Center for the museum to build and display its exhibits in the near future.
The museum had plans to refurbish the Oil City Brass Works building at 600 Crockett St. The building, however, is in such bad condition that it will most likely be demolished instead.
City manager Kyle Hayes said the director of the city of Beaumont’s event facilities came up with a solution to end the Children’s Museum’s woes and one that would benefit the city as well.
The idea was to make the meeting rooms at the Beaumont Civic Center available to the Children’s Museum to display their exhibits until they choose to build their own museum, Hayes said.
“The reason we think it makes sense is because the meeting space … is underutilized,” Hayes explained at a March 4 Beaumont City Council meeting.
“We do have people that rent it, but we have other facilities where they could go — The Event Centre, The Julie Rogers Theatre, the lobby at the Civic Center.”
Hayes pointed out that the city is currently looking for ways to attract families to Riverfront Park and that having the Children’s Museum close by could aid in that goal.
“If we had a children’s museum next door, I think that would help in that effort. To have the synergy there for everything we’re trying to achieve,” he said.
Also, the Civic Center already has a parking lot that can accommodate school bus parking, restrooms, and a ticket office that is also underutilized, Hayes said.
Hayes said the city met with Alison Getz and board members of the Children’s Museum in February to discuss the idea.
“They were excited about it,” he said. “City staff is excited about it. If they choose to build their own building, that’s fine, but in the meantime they may love it down here and it may be working so well, maybe they’ll be down here for the next 50 years.”
Mayor Becky Ames expressed concern, however, that prospective hotels that had plans to build next to the Civic Center might want to utilize said meeting room space and that could cause a potential conflict with the Children’s Museum.
“Don’t not move forward with the Children’s Museum … a hotel can have their own meeting space,” Hayes responded. “I think the Children’s Museum far outweighs any negatives. I think if we move forward with hotel development, we are going to have to subsidize it in some form or fashion. That may be a part of it, that we help with the meeting space. There are other locations other than the Civic Center to make that happen as well. It depends what their needs are.”
If the city agrees to lease the Civic Center space to the Children’s Museum, Hayes said it would likely charge $500 a month and would retain the option to terminate the lease at any time.
Allison Getz, president of the Beaumont Children’s Museum, said, “We have over $100,000 in the bank and have been raising money, but … it’s really difficult to write grants and raise serious money until you have a physical location that you are operating out of. I just think this is a great alternative for us.”
Hayes said after the city and the Children’s Museum work out a lease agreement, the city will be asked to approve the lease at a future council meeting.