The Children’s Museum of Houston hashad a presence in Fort Bend County for years. Now the museum is working on establishing a permanent home in the area.
Its goal is to open the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center in the summer of 2015.
The new facility will be part of the Imperial Development in Sugar Land. Preliminary plans call for locating the center in a two-story, 20,000-square-foot restored building in the mixed-used development. It will house six exhibits and provide access to an outdoor area.
Since the museum announced its plans, the George Foundation pledged a $1 million challenge grant to the Discovery Center. To receive it, the museum must raise a matching $1 million by October 2013.
That $2 million will cover the construction of the exhibits.
The George Foundation, a longtime museum supporter, is very familiar with the museum’s educational efforts, said Mandi Bronsell, manager of the Discovery Center’s capital campaign.
“The foundation’s matching grant was so generous,” the Richmond resident said. “It’s just a really good jump-start for us.”
The museum also has been challenged by its board of directors to raise the Discovery Center’s estimated $550,000 in annual operating costs for the first three years, bringing the total fundraising goal to $3.65 million.
Johnson Development Corp., developer for the Imperial project in Sugar Land, will host a cocktail hour to kick off the Discovery Center’s capital campaign 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at the Legends Club at Constellation Field.
Admission is free.
“We will be giving a presentation of what’s to come,” Bronsell said. “This project is a perfect fit for us in Fort Bend. There are so many families here with children. And so much happens at the museum. We think Fort Bend will love that.”
This effort to bring the Children’s Museum of Houston to Fort Bend County was initiated by area residents.
“In 2006 we were approached by some of the community leaders in the Sugar Land area,” said Tammie Kahn, the museum’s executive director. “They knew we had a great museum and wanted to see if we could do some kind of satellite program in their area.”
Museum leaders responded to the residents’ request by operating for six weeks in 2007 and 2008 in retail spaces at Sugar Land Town Square. About 21,000 people visited each year.
Once it was clear community interest in a Fort Bend children’s museum was strong, the museum began looking for a long-term location, Kahn said. Museum leaders wanted a spot that would be central to the county and easily accessible to nearby Katy residents, along with communities south of the county.
When Johnson Development Corp. took responsibility for redeveloping Sugar Land’s Imperial Sugar Co. site, it announced interest in preserving some of the historic buildings there.
The buildings would provide space for community programs that would add value to the development, Kahn said, The Discovery Center seemed like a good fit.
The site the museum is interested in is north of the Imperial Sugar silos and near the site of the Farmers Market at Imperial.
“It’s a wonderful old brick building, one of the original warehouses,” Kahn said. “It just seems there would be great energy there.”
As of the second week of July, the arrangement to move the Discovery Center into that building had not been finalized, Kahn said, but it looked promising.
“If something were to happen we would continue to look because there’s so much excitement about us being in Fort Bend County,” Kahn said.
She said she’s excited about the project, too.
Like the museum’s Houston location, the Discovery Center in Fort Bend County will serve children from infancy to 12 years of age.
“We’ll be focusing on exhibits for children younger than 36 months, because that is such a developmentally critical time,” Kahn said.
The center also will offer hands-on math and science activities, along with exhibits that explore real-world systems, from financial to government.
Museum events will explore cultures and diversity.
“We also hope to have an outdoors space where you can really get messy and let off steam,” Kahn said.
“The committee members are a great group of people,” Kahn said. “They’re people who dream big and go out and make it happen.
“Fort Bend really understands the role of education in a child’s life and how critical it is.”
For information about supporting the Discovery Center, call Bronsell at 281-282-7476.