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City of Great Falls extends lease for Children’s Museum of Montana

Choldren's Museum of Montana.png
Posted at 6:18 PM, Feb 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 20:18:27-05

GREAT FALLS — In the video above, Tim McGonigal visits the Children's Museum of Montana at 22 Railroad Square in downtown Great Falls to learn about its new lease.

The City of Great Falls said in a news release:

The Children's Museum of Montana (CMOM) has been provided a one-year Lease effective December 1, 2023, which can be administratively extended for an additional year if the museum has not relocated. After the first two years, the City Commission will consider and review the Lease annually. After two years, the Commission may consider market rate lease adjustments or other modifications at its sole discretion. CMOM will still be required to pay all utility costs, maintenance, and repairs of the building and its systems. CMOM will pay the City of Great Falls $1.00 for each year of the Lease, which is due on December 1 of each year that the Lease is in effect. The City may consider extending a near-market rate lease after the initial two-year term concludes.

(APRIL 2023) Cascade County commissioners on Tuesday, April 4th, 2023, hosted a community meeting at the Black Eagle Community Center to discuss the potential move of the Children's Museum of Montana into the Stray Moose property in Black Eagle. The museum is currently at 22 Railroad Square in downtown Great Falls.

Forum addresses potential move of Children's Museum to Black Eagle

The property in Black Eagle has been leased by the county to Stray Moose Productions since 1999. It is currently operated by CEO Philip Faccenda.

Faccenda supported the move, stating, "I think it would be an asset to the county and state to have the Children's Museum of Montana in our building. It would be great."

Museum director Sherrie Neff stated her reasons for wanting to move into the building.

"The first was the amazing aesthetics that Philip Faccenda put in this building. He has created it with this rough, timber, thick Montana-lodge style. We have this easier feel to bring up to our standards. Our world-class museum we want to create is already there. It looks like Montana, and it's where our kids should be."

While the project got positive input from the public, there are some challenges along the way.

Currently, the land is owned by Cascade County, whereas the building is owned by Stray Moose Productions. The property is in the Operable Unit 2 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the ACM Smelter and Refinery Superfund Site controlled by ARCO.

The Smelter side of Black Eagle will also need various levels of cleanup, along with some upgraded utility lines. Additionally, there will likely be a review by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which can take at least a couple months.

Aware of the obstacles, Neff said, "When it comes to picking the right site plan and remediation, there's all different types of hurdles and hoops, but the nice thing about hoops and hurdles is you can jump them, and that's what we're going to keep doing. We haven't run into any roadblocks or brick walls yet."

The museum has a buy-sell agreement with Faccenda. While it is unknown how much the project will cost at this point, the museum is raising money to cover the costs needed to obtain matching grant monies for the purchase, renovation, and move.

Museum board member Lynda Sowell explained the potential benefits of moving into the Stray Moose.

"As a grandmother of nine children, I can see the future for our children in this new space opening so many more doors. We would have so much more room in this location, both indoor and outdoor, but more importantly, it would be our building for many years to come, rather than leasing in our current situation."

As far as next steps go, the Children's Museum will continue working with agencies involved in the project on the design plan as well as other logistics.