Friday, July 14, 2000

$6.5M trade of buildings sought

Result would be a new school and more museum exhibit space

By Richelle Thompson and Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The woolly mammoths outside the Cincinnati Museum Center would be moved.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Woolly mammoths may give way to a mammoth undertaking.

        The Cincinnati Museum Center and the Episcopal Church Diocese of Southern Ohio have agreed to a $6.5 million swap that could result in a new inner-city school and museum expansion.

        Now it's up to City Council to give the final OK.

        The church wants to open a school for pre-school to eighth grade students at the 42,000-square-foot building on Gilbert Avenue at the foot of Eden Park. The diocese would pay $6.5 million to buy and expand 505 Gest St., the former National Underwriter facility. The Gest Street building would become home for 2 million museum artifacts — and the trademark woolly mammoths.

        “The community gets a win-win out of the deal,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Hansel, who is leading the diocese's initiative. A new building would free up exhibit space at Union Terminal, and the museum could install state-of-the-art storage and laboratories.

        For the church, it's an opportunity to minister to the city.

        “To us, it seems a simple question of justice,” said the Rev. Dr. Hansel. “Instead of saying (to kids) this is the best we can do, and this is what you have to settle for, we're saying this is the best, and it's for you. That sends a very different message.”

        The school would require at least 50 percent of its expected 350 students to live in the inner city.

        Although Cincinnati Councilman Paul Booth has not seen the details of the proposal, he said Thursday it appears to be a positive development for the city. He supports the diocesan mission of encouraging diversity.

        The museum has had a “perpetual use” lease with the city since 1957. That has allowed the museum to use the Gilbert Street building without charge. But the museum must get council's approval to swap buildings.

        City attorneys are reviewing the proposal, and council may discuss it Aug. 2.

Museum Center hoping to expand
Church hopes school helps neighborhood rise

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