U.S. Marshals Museum fundraising target down to $17.1 million

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 820 views 

A view of the U.S. Marshals Museum now under construction in downtown Fort Smith.

The United States Marshals Museum (USMM) continues to make progress on fundraising targets ahead of its Sept. 24, 2019 opening day. At a quarterly meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 11), USMM President and CEO Patrick Weeks revealed the museum had $17.1 million left to raise, down an estimated $700,000 since July 26.

Weeks also voiced his support for the Kelley Highway extension that would provide easier access to the museum once it opens.

New museum budget figures place the total project cost at around $49.266 million, down almost $10 million from estimates two years ago. The previous figure included over $5 million in land donations. Adding those back into the budget places the total project cost around $54 million, with the museum picking up about $4 million in savings through a design retool and value engineering, Weeks said.

Construction on the project formally launched in July. Weeks said observers “will start to see utilities being run underneath the building pad by the end of this week,” adding the concrete “will start to pour for footings as early as two weeks from now.”

CDI Contractors completed preliminary site work on the building pad in the fall of 2017. When finished, the 53,000-square-foot Mary Carleton and Robert A. Young III Building will pay tribute to the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

The museum will feature five immersive galleries: Defining Marshals; The Campfire: Stories Under the Stars; Frontier Marshals; A Changing Nation; and Modern Marshals. It will also include a National Learning Center, Hall of Honor, conference rooms, general office space, retail space and a large lobby for community partnerships. Additionally, it will feature an exterior dining area, green-space, full-service restaurant, and a monument donated by the Five Tribes. Los Angeles-based Thinkwell: The Experience Co. are designers of the exhibit and will use subcontractors for the installations.

During the meeting, Weeks mentioned how beneficial it will be for the museum when the planned Kelley Highway extension is completed. Some members on the city’s streets, bridges, and drainage capital improvement plan (CIP) advisory committee have balked at prioritizing the $15 million project, which will be a topic of discussion at Thursday afternoon’s CIP meeting. Weeks said he plans to be at the meeting to hear the committee’s thoughts.

Weeks told Talk Business & Politics the extension “is great for economic development on the north side of town, great for easier access to downtown Fort Smith, including the Marshals Museum but also including the entirety of the cultural campus.”

“I think that folks coming from the north and the east need to have a convenient way to get to downtown that is potentially a better experience than coming down Grand Avenue or Rogers Avenue. And now, with the Marshals Museum, we’ll see approximately 113,000 people a year, and about 87,000 of those are coming from over 30 miles away. So, you can do some simple math and see that’s a lot of vehicles that are going to be coming from the north and the east that would enjoy having that expansion in place.”

Weeks continued: “And the majority of those people coming from the north and the east are overnight stays. They’re not just coming to the museum and leaving. That’s kind of a misnomer. We expect that 77,000 of the 113,000 are coming from over 50 miles away. These are not go-to-the-museum-and-turnaround (cases).”

The extension, Weeks said, “makes it easier to get to downtown Fort Smith, see all the amenities, and get to the rest of the town — the hotels they’re going to stay in, the places they’re going to spend money. It also significantly helps the trucking issue that’s in town as stated in the Gateway Planning Propelling Downtown Forward study. So I’m a big proponent of it, not just because of the museum, but because of the future of Fort Smith, the future of downtown Fort Smith, and the growth of Fort Smith.”

The extension is on the city’s 2019-2020 CIP for the purchase of rights-of-ways and relocation of utilities. If it remains on schedule, construction would begin in 2021.

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