WAYNESBORO, VA– At the regularly scheduled City Council meeting of December 9, 2019, City Council approved a resolution providing $1,000,000 in incentives to the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) to build a “Waynesboro Campus” in downtown. The package includes direct financial contributions, in-kind support and real property and is contingent on the additional financial support from the Commonwealth of Virginia for the construction of a new building in downtown Waynesboro.
The resolution passed is similar to ones passed by previous Councils and confirms the City’s support of the project.
Since 2011, City Officials, the Economic Development Authority (EDA), and the Center for Coldwater Restoration have been working with the VMNH in Martinsville to locate a Campus in Waynesboro. In the Commonwealth’s FY 2019 budget, the General Assembly confirmed its support of the project with a budget allocation of $250,000 for engineering and architectural work.
“We are delighted to be working with the Virginia Museum of Natural History on their project to build a Waynesboro Campus” says Waynesboro Mayor Terry Short. “Since the General Assembly appropriated funds for architectural and engineering design, the project is now considered ready for bid. We are fortunate to have a strong General Assembly delegation, and we hope they will be successful in the 2020 legislative session in securing final funding so that the project can move forward.”
During the Council meeting, Dr. Joe Keiper, Executive Director of the VMNH, gave an update on the progress of the engineering and architectural work. The preliminary concept shows a stunning two-story structure located on the current Constitution Park parking lot at the NE corner of Main and Arch Streets in downtown. Views from the roof top include the mountains in the distance and South River in the foreground. Dr. Keiper commented, “The Waynesboro Campus will house exhibits interpreting the natural history of the unique and beautiful resources of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge region.” Preliminary exhibit space design includes 14,000 square feet (SF) of exhibits; 2,000 SF Pre-K through 5 activity zone; 1,600 SF of classroom space; and 1,000 SF research-grade laboratory space.
Images of the preliminary concept are available for download at https://www.waynesborobusiness.com/virginia-museum-of-natural-history/
The City Council and EDA along with private contributions and grants have helped fund a number of studies to determine the feasibility of such a center. Key findings of those studies include:
- It is financially feasible and the regional market could support a VMNH – Waynesboro Campus, conceived as a 25,000 square foot facility including exhibits focused on the natural history of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge region. Specific features of the facility would include:
- Exciting, creative exhibits interpreting the local environment and natural history using some of the 10 million artifacts currently housed in Martinsville;
- Environmental classrooms supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and providing an opportunity for some 63,000 K-12 students in the region to explore and learn;
- A ‘playscape’ interactive area for early childhood learning;
- Publicly viewable laboratories where curators and university partners will have an opportunity to work and learn;
- A resource for partners in public programs and scientific research that will include the Wildlife Center of Virginia, James Madison University, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
It is estimated that the center will attract between 45,332 and 85,832 visitors a year that include both residents in the region, visitors to the Valley, and tourists traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive with a total annual economic impact of over $2,000,000. Initial estimates indicate that the Waynesboro Campus will be an investment of $21,000,000 to construct and equip and that a corporate and public philanthropic giving campaign will provide a minimum of $2,000,000 towards the project.
“The revitalization of downtown is a major goal of the city,” said Greg Hitchin, CEcD, Director of Economic Development and Tourism for the City of Waynesboro. “A campus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Waynesboro is a huge step in redefining our landscape and will provide an exceptional opportunity to augment the existing cultural amenities and recreational opportunities in the area for citizens and visitors, while providing jobs and supporting small businesses.”
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