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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

University exploring museum proposal

August 11, 2007

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Kansas University leaders were intrigued last spring when a developer approached them about putting a museum in Olathe.

"We certainly thought it was worth exploring," KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said.

Details of the proposal are still a long way from finalization. The developer, MaeGrace LLC, is still working on its plan. That plan calls for a hotel and convention center to be built near the new Bass Pro Shop that opened in the area of 119th Street and Interstate 35. The museum would be part of the same development.

If it were built, the museum would house elements of KU's Natural History Museum and Spencer Art Museum. Details about the museum are being discussed with KU, said John Peterson, an Overland Park attorney representing MaeGrace.

"We're letting them have first crack at letting us know what their exact requirements would be and then we'll design any other concepts around them," Peterson said.

An attempt would be made to use STAR bonds to finance the project, the same funding mechanism that was used to build Kansas Speedway and related developments in western Wyandotte County several years ago. The bonds allow municipalities to develop major entertainment and tourism areas and use sales tax revenue generated by the development to pay off the bonds.

In addition to the KU museum, MaeGrace also wants to lure Wichita's Museum of World Treasurers to the site.

"We'll have a variety of museum educational opportunities," Peterson said.

The city of Olathe would have to approve the project. The developer is preparing additional information about financing, traffic studies and other details, city spokesman Tim Dannenberg said.

"There's a lot of moving parts right now and nothing is definitive," he said. "These big projects are tough to gauge."

The Olathe site is of interest to KU because it is a desirable area and there also are a lot of KU alumni there, Bretz said. The project is "in the developer's court," she said.

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