Awards from hydropower earnings would provide funding for the interior build-out at the museum, which is expected to attract 225,000 visitors in its opening year
The Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board voted Monday to recommend $1.7 million in funding to Explore & More Children's Museum. The funding will pay for a portion of the costs associated with exhibit planning and construction related to completing the interior build-out of the museum's new site at Canalside in downtown Buffalo, expected to open in 2016. WNYPPAB's recommendation is expected to be considered by the New York Power Authority board of trustees at a future date.
"Since Explore & More began programming at Canalside eight years ago, we have built a strong partnership with Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and Empire State Development," said Matt Davison, president of Explore & More's board of directors. "That synergy was reaffirmed in 2012 when ECHDC selected Explore & More for the South Aud Block site, and again in 2013 when they formally accepted the museum's master plan and feasibility study. It's renewed again today, as the governor and the Power Proceeds Allocation Board support the plans to build a world-class children's museum on Buffalo's waterfront. This is an investment not just in a building, but in a future: for a city, a region and the children and families who live here."
"Our recommendation to provide funding to Explore & More at Canalside complements Gov. Cuomo's plans to activate Buffalo's waterfront," said Allocation Board Chairman Anthony J. Colucci III. "The museum will be a focal point of the downtown revitalization intended to improve Buffalo's image as a tourist destination and provide cultural attractions to draw and keep tourists in the region."
"Ultimately, this gift will support the children of our region, enabling Explore & More to provide innovative and fun learning for all," said Barbara Leggett, executive director of Explore & More. "We know that children learn best through play, and Explore & More at Canalside will be filled with creative and playful hands-on experiences for the youngest Western New Yorkers. This investment in the future of Buffalo will improve our community - and the lives of children - for decades to come."
Once built, the 40,000-square-foot Explore & More at Canalside will be a vibrant, unique, hands-on play experience for children and families as they learn more about Western New York and the world around them. Located in the South Aud Block, the museum is estimated to attract 225,000 visitors in the opening year alone, and those visitors will typically shop, eat and pay for other nearby services before and after their museum experience. Explore & More's more than $11 million interior build-out project is expected to retain 13 jobs, create 19 jobs, in addition to 40 construction jobs, and bring new visitors and investment to Buffalo's waterfront.
In 2013, Explore & More was selected to anchor the Canalside redevelopment project spearheaded by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. ECHDC has committed to funding $8 million for the planning and construction of the Explore & More at Canalside museum project on the condition Explore & More will be responsible for the interior build-out and exhibits that will make up the museum. Explore & More will occupy 40,000 square feet within the larger South Aud Block redevelopment project.
According to a study completed in 2008 by the National Association of Children's Museums, nearly 50 percent of the museums opened in the previous 10 years nationwide were part of urban revitalization and smart growth plans. It is conservatively estimated that, in addition to museum admission, local visitors to Explore & More at Canalside will spend on average $22.87 per person, and tourists would spend $38.05 per person, resulting in more than $5 million in economic impact in the immediate neighborhood annually. The project site is within walking distance of a number of Buffalo's existing or planned cultural attractions.
The latest recommendation for proceeds awards stem from legislation signed into law in 2012 by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, known as the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act.
The WNYPPAB reviewed these and other applications for fund proceeds in accordance with requirements of the act. For example, eligible projects must be located within a 30-mile radius of NYPA's Niagara Power Project. The allocation board also considers the extent to which an award would be consistent with the strategies and priorities of the area New York regional economic development councils. Contracts with awardees will include provisions for periodic audits to ensure the funds are utilized for agreed-upon purposes. Some projects are subject to legal requirements that must be satisfied before an award of fund proceeds can be made.
The allocation board is comprised of the following members, appointed by Cuomo: Chairman Colucci, managing attorney of the law firm of Colucci & Gallaher in Buffalo; Deanna Alterio Brennan, president of the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce; Brenda Williams McDuffie, president of the Buffalo Urban League; Dennis W. Elsenbeck, regional executive, National Grid Western Division; and Henry F. Wojtaszek, general counsel at Off-Track Betting of Western New York.
Explore & More Children's Museum is currently located at 300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora. For more information, visit www.exploreandmore.org or call 716-655-5131.
An artist's rendering of the new Explore & More Children's Museum at Canalside