News Column

City to discuss Carnegie building's future occupants

August 8, 2014

By Michelle Merlin, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Aug. 08--TRAVERSE CITY -- Managing the 110-year-old, Traverse City-owned Carnegie Library doesn't come without a cost.

The History Center of Traverse City has managed the site for about 15 years. Members raised $1.9 million to restore the building on Sixth Street and and officials pay about $100,000 annually to maintain the building.

The price tag is becoming less and less viable for the nonprofit group, which has struggled financially for the last several years, despite a city government subsidy of $50,000 annually.

The History Center was unable to become self-sufficient over the last few years, a condition that was part of its previous agreement with the city. Now History Center officials are asking for the city to pay about $125,000 to help them manage the building and city-owned Con Foster collection.

City commissioners will discuss the future of the building at a study session on Monday.

"We have found that museums, 3-D artifact museum exhibits, do not draw money to pay the costs of a museum professional," said Steve Harold, chair of the History Center's board. "We have tried, we've had incredible exhibits, we've had incredibly popular summer exhibits. Virtually none of them have paid the cost of opening them to the public."

Artcenter Traverse City has expressed interest in the space. Paul LaPorte, president of the Artcenter board, said the group would be happy to either share the space with the History Center or start a lease with the city after the History Center's lease expires at year's end.

The group would occupy 80 percent of the building and allow the History Center to occupy the remaining 20 percent of the building for the Con Foster collection, based on a report from City Manager Jered Ottenwess.

"Do we pay the History Center group organization additional money to use the Carnegie Building and a fee to maintain the Con Foster exhibit, or do we go with an organization like the Artcenter to operate the building, or do we seek some alternative," said Mayor Michael Estes. "The goal is to provide direction as to where we go, and that's the bottom line."

The History Center struggled financially for the last several years. The group lost $17,000 in 2012 and $50,000 in 2013. Board members faced another $50,000 deficit in 2014 and carried only $25,000 in reserve funds.

The group cut the museum director position in January to help with costs and is on track to meet its annual budget, Harold said.

History Center officials unsuccessfully tried to find another nonprofit to lease space earlier this year.


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Source: Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI)

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