City Museum could get extra $15k to fill budget gap

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CORRECTION APPENDED: The original story said the A.J. Fletcher Foundation sold it’s 40-percent share in the downtown Briggs Building. The foundation did not sell it’s share, but it did move out of the floor it occupied above the city museum.

The Raleigh City Museum can hopefully operate in the black for the rest of the fiscal year thanks to a $15,000 emergency grant from the city. The grant passed its first hurdle Tuesday in a Raleigh City Council committee, but will still need approval from the full council.

Air conditioning repairs and changes in the renters of the museum’s downtown Briggs Building location forced the museum to ask for money to close an unexpected $30,000 budget gap.

The museum will have to raise an additional $15,000 to match the city’s grant.

The museum gets more than half of its $300,000 annual budget each year from the city.

Renée Foster and Bo Hemphill visit the Raleigh City Museum as the museum works to fill a $30,000 budget gap. Photo by Bryan LeClaire.

The city council’s Budget and Economic Development Committee also voted Tuesday to form a working group to address what Greg Paul, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, calls the institution’s “existential crisis.”

Until recently, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, a major contributor to the museum and 40-percent owner of the Briggs Building, occupied the building’s third floor. As 20-percent owner of the premises, the museum enjoys a payout from building income that offsets its rent obligation.

When A.J. Fletcher vacated its offices, the museum received a lower payout because of the reduced total rent that was paid until another tenant took possession of the property.

Although the museum’s partners agreed to extend the museum’s lease for five years, financial realities could create problems after that.

“The value of the building is much more than what we put into it,” said Paul. “Our rent is currently about $10 per square foot every year. Based on the value of the building, we expect that to double if new owners ask for a return on what they put into it.”

Paul suggested ideas for the new working group to consider, including a capital campaign to purchase 100 percent of the Briggs Building so that rent could serve as an endowment for day-to-day operations. Wake County assesses the building’s worth at about $2.5 million.

Paul also suggested looking at other North Carolina municipal museums as models. Greensboro, High Point, and Wilmington, said Greg, have successfully incorporated their historical museums as city agencies.

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