Developers are considering a new location for a proposed “art and light” museum that the city had said would be adjacent to the Flint Hills Discovery Center.
City commissioners in June had approved the use of STAR bonds for the Museum of Art and Light, which would feature projected images of famous artwork.
But Manhattan city manager Ron Fehr said earlier this month that after receiving feedback, Bob and Tracey DeBruyn, who operate The Master Teacher in Manhattan, are reviewing potential alternative locations and designs.
Fehr was not available for comment on Wednesday, and spokeswoman Vivienne Uccello said officials are not releasing information on where locations might be or how many are under consideration.
In an email to The Mercury, Bob DeBruyn said he is “right in the middle of dotting I’s and crossings T’s” related to a possible new site but declined to give specifics.
City officials declined to give any of the possible alternative locations. The tentative location approved by Manhattan city commissioners in June is a parking lot just southeast of the Flint Hills Discovery Center. Fehr said the DeBruyns “heard some opposition” to the proposal after that June 1 commission meeting. The main concerns shared by members of the public at that meeting regarded parking and site location, but Fehr didn’t go into specifics.
“They want this (museum) to be a positive addition to the community,” Fehr said. “I think the DeBruyns are taking their time to look into all their options before moving forward on one specific design and location.”
Fehr said the next step in the process would be for the developers to submit a proposal to amend the planned unit development (PUD) zoning in the area. He said the PUD process is “a little bit more detailed and can take a little bit longer” depending on the nature of the project.
“I think they (the DeBruyns) are trying to evaluate… moving forward full-steam ahead on developing a PUD amendment, or doing a little more exploration,” Fehr said. “At this point I think it’s kind of the latter.”
Fehr did not have an estimated timeline for the project’s next steps. The city estimates the total project cost at $43.6 million plus the cost of the land.
Organizers are seeking about $21 million in private donations, and they plan to use $23 million in sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds to create the three-story, 50,000 square-foot museum with immersive exhibits and displays. In June, the Kansas Department of Commerce approved $23 million worth of STAR bonds for the city to contribute to the museum project.
The Museum of Art and Light Inc., a nonprofit, will operate the facility. Developers expect the museum to generate more than $15 million in sales annually from visitors seeing the museum and spending time in Manhattan.
At the Museum of Art and Light, people would be able to look, touch and even set foot in the art, with inspiration drawn from the immersive exhibits at Paris’ l’Atelier des Lumieres museum.
Digital exhibits would project different scenes like the Sistine Chapel and others on the walls and floors to transport people into those spaces. The museum would feature digital images from artists like Picasso and Rembrandt as well as local and regional artists.
The anticipated opening date for the museum is in 2023.