Children’s Museum lease likely to be renewed for five years; museum looking for new home

The city is reviewing its lease with the Children’s Museum of Montana for the space at 22 Railroad Square.

The lease is up this month, but has an automatic five-year renewal.

City Manager Greg Doyon has said that he’s recommending keeping the lease essentially as is, including the $1 per year rent, but that the city will need the building after that for office space. City officials have indicated a preference to utilize a facility already owned by the city versus acquiring more property which would be an added expense to taxpayers for the purchase and ongoing maintenance of an additional facility.
Children’s Museum launches fundraising campaign for new building

The proposed lease agreement is scheduled for City Commission consideration during their Dec. 4 meeting.

Doyon and Morgan Mitchell, executive director, discussed the lease and museum’s future plans with City Commissioners during their Nov. 20 work session.
[READ: the draft museum lease agreement]

Earlier this year, the museum launched a fundraising campaign to find a new space.

Doyon said that over the last 15 or so years that the museum has been in the Railroad Square building, things have changed at the city, to include a growing need for space for the city legal department, which is currently spread in multiple parts of the Civic Center, and the Municipal Court.
City staff looks at options for turning Missouri Room into office space at Great Falls Civic Center

“There’s just not a lot of usable space left in this building for the future,” Doyon told commissioners during the Nov. 20 meeting about space limitations in the Civic Center.

In recent years, there’s been discussion on turning the Missouri or Gibson rooms into office space to meet current needs.

The Civic Center will also require a major exterior renovation in the near future, Doyon told commissioners.

“Renewal for five years will give them adequate time to look down the road” and make plan for the future, Doyon said of the museum.

Mitchell, the museum director, updated commissioners on the $3.5 million capital campaign they launched over the summer.

They’ve been restructuring the museum, she said, and looking to create a better community presence over the next few years to help fundraising efforts. They’re also looking at hiring an outside party to conduct an audit, and pursuing grants, as well as creating additional signature events.

The museum has traditionally relied on their Chocolate Noir event for their operating budget, which isn’t sustainable, Mitchell told commissioners.

As they run their capital campaign and search for a new space, Mitchell said they’re also working to add new exhibits, to include a space themed one in partnership with the Air Force and also a sensory area for children with disabilities.

Mayor Bob Kelly told Mitchell that the city wants to work with the museum and encouraged her to call on commissioners to help publicize the museum.

“We want to be a team with this,” Kelly said. “We don’t want it to go away.”