Museum of Art and Light

This artist’s rendering shows the proposed Museum of Art and Light, which a developer wants to build directly south and east of the Flint Hills Discovery Center using STAR bonds.

A nonprofit corporation wants to build a new 50,000-square-foot Museum of Art and Light next to the Flint Hills Discovery Center, seeking state sales tax revenue to build another downtown attraction.

According to documents The Mercury obtained on Friday, the Museum of Art and Light Inc. has submitted an 86-page plan to the city government, positioning the project as Phase II to the Discovery Center’s Phase I. The corporation’s resident agent is Tracey DeBruyn of Manhattan.

The plan describes the facility as a “state-of-the-art museum featuring immersive exhibits and interactive displays, creating a one-of-a-kind, hands-on, art and cultural attraction unmatched in the United States.” Reddi said it will likely include local, state, national and international art.

Robert and Tracey DeBruyn, who operate The Master Teacher in Manhattan, approached the city government about building the museum next to the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

“They had a concept and a vision for several years here of talking about it within the community, trying to figure out where they could place this and what would be involved with the structure itself,” said Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager.

The DeBruyns will speak at the Manhattan City Commission meeting June 1. The use of STAR bonds would require an amendment to the city’s original plan. Residents also can speak during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

At least one city commissioner spoke positively about the proposed museum.

“It’s just extremely interesting, very innovative, and I think it would help a lot of visitors come to our community,” Manhattan city commissioner Usha Reddi told The Mercury.

Officials estimate the total project cost at about $43.6 million plus the cost of the land. The proposed site is directly southeast of the Discovery Center, where its parking lot is now.

Hilgers said the city wouldn’t have to put money toward the project.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the community to obviously leverage private investment within the community for this type of quality of life facility,” Hilgers said.

Organizers want to acquire about $21 million in private donations and use $23 million in STAR Bond funds. Sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds are administered toward commercial, entertainment and tourism developments in Kansas.

The intent is to divert sales tax revenue that would otherwise be collected by the state government to build projects in local communities to attract tourists.

The Downtown Manhattan Redevelopment District’s original bonds are scheduled to be paid in full in June, which planners said indicates the district is overperforming and would have the funding capacity necessary to cover new bond debt for the new project. The state awarded the bonds to the city government in 2006 for the purpose of building the Discovery Center.

If the commission amends the plan in June, it’s up to the Kansas Secretary of State to decide whether the art museum can move forward with using STAR bond funds from the state, Hilgers said.

“There’s a lot of logistics to get through here,” he said. “You’ve got a concept. You’ve got an idea that’s really exciting for the community. You’ve got a private group willing to invest several millions of dollars in the area, and you possibly have the state of Kansas willing to invest millions of dollars in our community once again.”

The developer estimates the completed museum will produce annual retail sales of $1.3 million and would draw 75,000 visitors a year, including more than 20,000 from out of state.

The corporation’s board of directors includes the DeBruyns of Manhattan; Julie Hostetler of Manhattan; Phile Howe of Manhattan; Ron Bowman of Arizona; Stan Zukowsky of Arizona; and Erin Dragotto of Iowa.