Lending a Helping Hand

For the past 23 years, children have been going to the DuPage Children’s Museum for interactive learning. After perching on the brink of foreclosure, the museum staff can finally breathe easy and keep museum doors open for years to come.

The Naperville City Council recently approved a $3 million deal to purchase the museum’s land, completing a rescue package will alleviate the museum’s $9.5 million debt.

“We have been working with a lot of different entities and individuals and foundations to make sure that we could secure this museum in Naperville for the children in this community,” said Susan Broad, Executive Director for the museum.

The plan to get rid of the debt has five components. Chase Bank agreed to lower the museum’s debt to just $6 million. DuPage County kicks in a quarter of a million, private donors provide $700,000 dollars and Representative Senger found almost two million dollars in state capital funds to reduce the museum’s red ink to approximately $3 million.

There are mixed reactions throughout the town about the city paying the $3 million, especially considering they are almost $5 million in the hole.

“I’m all in favor for anything educational in the community,” said Naperville resident Anne Anderson.

“I understand the state isn’t in very good shape financially,” said Naperville resident John Koligman. “But I think the children’s museum is a real asset to the community.”

“I think they could have put the money to something a lot better, maybe schools,” said Megan Bender, Naperville resident. “I think it would be better for funds to cover children’s education rather than their play time.”

Now after years of running in the red, the museum has to figure out ways to stay in the black. The museum currently receives about $340,000 a year from Naperville’s Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA) fund, but as a part of the agreement will no longer be allowed to apply for operational funds.

“We already have a wonderful donation coming from the McCormick Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, which is a new donor for us,” said Broad. “So that will help support us a little bit.”

As a condition of the financial rescue, the City of Naperville would approve the museum’s annual budget, and two city council members would serve on the museum’s board of directors.

Proponents of the deal say the bailout provides a clean slate and a new direction in management.

I think we will build sufficient support from people to be able to build the museum that the people in this community want and deserve,” said Broad.

The deal gives the children’s museum a rent-free facility for five years, but takes 60 museum parking spaces and makes them available to commuters near the Burlington Northern line. Then, after six years, they will have to pay an annual rent to the city to the tune of $60,000.

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