Looking uptown

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Mint Museums have big plans to move their art museum to a new building in Charlotte’s center city and expand their endowment.

The plans call for a new uptown building that could cost $40 million to $50 million and would be funded with public dollars and owned by the city, possibly on city property.

The Mint also would launch a $30 million private endowment drive.

“For us, the sooner, the better,” says Phil Kline, president and CEO.

To support its plans, the Mint is counting on funds from the $190 million public-private fundraising effort, launched in May, to pay for cultural facilities in the region.

But the city has thrown a curve to that drive, which depends on a city contribution $88 million.

Saying it would not make a contribution this year, the city has named a task force to study the issue and report back in September.

The setback is not the first for the Mint: Voters in 2001 defeated a bond referendum that included $41 million for the art museum’s move uptown.

Of the public funds proposed for the regional cultural facilities drive, $14 million is earmarked for possible city purchase of uptown land for the Mint’s new art museum, and for planning and architectural work.

Private dollars to be raised in the regional drive include $10 million for the Mint’s endowment, possibly to be used to buy art.

The Mint has not yet selected a site for the new art museum, which would total 130,000 square feet, Kline says.

The move to the center city would be a homecoming of sorts for the Mint, built uptown in the 1830s by the Philadelphia Mint to capitalize on the region’s first gold strike, and then moved to Randolph Road in the 1930s with support from private donors who wanted to save it from demolition.

The 73,000-square-foot building, which for some years was a city department until being spun off as a nonprofit in 1992, needs not only more space, Kline says, but also a new location.

When the Mint was moved in the 30s from uptown, where it occupied the site that now is home to the federal courthouse, it was relocated on land near a floodplain.

In the wake of hurricanes over the years, the floodplain lines have been redrawn, placing the building squarely in the floodplain for Briar Creek.

“We do have water that comes into the building,” Kline says.

The city owns the land and building on Randolph Road, he says, and would own the new land and building uptown.

Kline says all funds raised from private donors as part of its plan to move uptown will be added to the endowment, which now totals $8 million, and will be used to support exhibitions and general operations for the art museum and for the Mint Museum of Craft + Design uptown.

With the city opting not to fund the regional facilities drive this year, Kline says, the Mint hopes to “work with the city council so it continues the long tradition that has existed in the community of public-private partnerships that address cultural needs.”

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