The proposed African American Museum and Cultural Center is expanding its search for a place where it should be built.
Fort Worth City Council on June 28 allocated $40,000 to the museum, but with one condition: The committee overseeing its development must include multiple sites into a feasibility study. The museum committee plans to reset the fundraising budget to accommodate the city’s request. The timeline is now uncertain as the committee seeks funding from the community.
The museum committee initially was looking at the Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St., in the Cultural District as the only study site. City Manager David Cooke questioned the study.
“It seems like they’ve already made a conclusion with that one site before the study,” Cooke told the Fort Worth Report.
John Barnett Jr. is the co-chair of the museum’s steering committee and now is the chair of the nonprofit overseeing the museum. The African American Museum and Cultural Center became a nonprofit organization in early June, Barnett said in a June 21 presentation to the City Council.
The presentation included the feasibility study of the Community Arts Center. After the work session, City Council members met in executive session to discuss the committee’s proposal on studying the Community Arts Center.
Behind closed doors, Cooke requested the museum’s committee to include more sites to its feasibility study, the city manager told the Report.
The City Council’s latest request will require the African American Museum and Cultural Center, the recently established nonprofit, to reconsider its fundraising plan. The city wanted to make sure other sites will be considered and not to exclusively rely on one site, Cooke said.
Now, the nonprofit must include at least two more sites into its feasibility study, Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said. Costa anticipates the Historic Southside will be one of the sites that will be studied.
The museum nonprofit will seek bids from national firms that have experience building African American museums to carry out the feasibility study. The study will include site and area evaluation, market and industry trends analysis and the comparison of other facilities, Barnett said.
“We have not done a deep dive into each of those assessments. We would wait to have (firms) to tell us more about what they would do,” Barnett told the Report. “What I presented was just an outline as to a broad stroke of what we would be looking for.”
The Urban Land Institute Dallas-Fort Worth carried out a site selection study on six properties around the city and presented its findings to the museum committee in April. The properties:
- Hoque Global Development, between Missouri and Evans Avenues
- National Juneteenth Museum site, on East Rosedale Street
- A new building next to the James E. Guinn School, 600 E. Rosedale St.
- Southside Community Center, 959 E Rosedale St.
- Community Arts Center
- The vacant space between the Community Arts Center and the Museum of Science and History
The panel then narrowed it down to the top three recommended sites. The top-ranked location was the repurposing of the Community Arts Center. The second-ranked site was the vacant space between the Community Arts Center and the Museum of Science and History. And the third spot was the Southside Community Center in the Historic Southside.
Initially, the museum’s steering committee chose to carry out the feasibility study only on the Community Arts Center because of limited funding. During a May listening session at Como Community Center, residents questioned the practicality of the study and asked to include the other two sites.
Kimberly Agoro, the Fort Worth Association of Federated Women’s Clubs president, found the city’s latest request encouraging. But the museum committee has already made up its mind to put the museum in the Cultural District, she told the Report.
“How are you going to say you’re exploring sites and you only have one site that you’re actually exploring?” Agoro said.
A feasibility study for one site is about $230,000, Costa, the assistant city manager, explained to the crowd. To conduct a study on three sites would be a challenge, he added.
The initial plan for the nonprofit was to fundraise the remaining $120,000 for the $230,000 feasibility study of one site. The nonprofit also planned to raise another $50,000 for its first year operation fund. But now, with the latest requirement to add more sites into the study, projected dates for the completion of the fundraising campaign are currently uncertain.
Barnett expects that the nonprofit would now set a higher amount for its fundraising goal. And the organization would not go back and ask the contributing foundations for more money, he said. Fort Worth Housing Solutions and the city of Fort Worth each allocated $40,000. The North Texas Community Foundation contributed $30,000.
The nonprofit has not met to discuss a plan for the expanded feasibility study yet, Barnett said. He is not sure how much the new fundraising amount would be or what challenge the nonprofit may face, he said.
“It’s like asking what color the eyes are going to be on the baby and the woman is three weeks pregnant,” Barnett said. “We don’t know. We just know we’re pregnant with this deal. I’m sure as we get closer to the birth, or closer to the formation, then all of those things will be in place.”
Chongyang Zhang is a summer fellow reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
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