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Valley Children's Museum, down but not out

Dublin grants organization more time to raise adequate funds

A permanent location for Dublin’s Valley Children’s Museum is still on its way to the Tri-Valley; it’s just going to take a little longer than originally anticipated.

In August 2017, the Dublin City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the VCM, reserving a spot for a permanent museum in a future 30-acre park near Dublin Boulevard, so long as it could raise adequate funding by July 1, 2018 -- adequate funding being defined as $1.5 million of the estimated $34 million needed. The VCM was unable to reach this goal in time.

Despite the failure to meet the original deadline, the city remains supportive of the project, electing to extend the MOU to Dec. 31, 2019, giving the VCM Board of Directors much needed time to raise the requisite funds.

“They were very gracious,” VCM President Ed Duarte said of the council. “The amended MOU turned out to be a single page document that just added two paragraphs, one of them being a restatement of all the conditions in the original version, and the date has been extended.”

The Dublin City Council granted the extension with friendly terms, Duarte said, maintaining the original conditions set from 2017’s MOU. The only additions require that VCM staff give the city a series of updates on how fundraising and planning commence over the next year.  

Over the next year the City Council has requested six two-month progress reports and one annual update, in order to keep city officials informed on the overall status of the project. The hope is that keeping city officials informed of the project's status will enable them to offer guidance and support when possible. Duarte said his organization also plans to send informal check-in emails to city staff on any developments that occur monthly.  

In spite of the organization's struggles, city of Dublin officials remain supportive of the VCM and the opportunities it brings to the region.

“I remain fully supportive and committed to the idea of bringing the Valley Children’s Museum to Dublin,” Dublin’s Mayor David Haubert told DanvilleSanRamon.com.

What will enable the VCM Board of Directors to succeed in its fundraising efforts this time around? Duarte says a more realistically sized and manageable facility.

“We're downsizing the dream, it's not a complete reset, it's not a complete do-over, it’s just going to be a downsizing to something more manageable,” Duarte said. “It's going to be the same style just a smaller version.”

Duarte admits that his organization bit off a little more than they could chew with the original design, as the estimated $34 million project was slightly unrealistic, he said. By reducing the scope of the project to a more manageable $10-15 million -- although that figure is not yet set in stone -- VCM staff are more optimistic of their chances to build a permanent museum.

The original design of the museum is most likely going to shrink in scale, Duarte said, but he is not yet certain what the final product will look like. VCM designers will continue to review the facility and search for reasonable changes over the next few months, he said.

“We're pretty sure the city likes (the original style), and I like it as a builder,” Duarte said. “You have to have an eye-drawing theme that's really attractive and catchy because it’s a kids museum.”

For community members interested in helping the dream of a Tri-Valley children’s museum become a reality, Duarte said what his organization needs most is for local residents to step into leadership roles.

“I would like to see more residents step up to be on the board. We need a larger board, we need a board of about 11 to 13 people and they need to be hopefully equally distributed, say four from San Ramon, four from Dublin, four from Pleasanton, a couple from Livermore. That would be my ideal makeup if I had my druthers,” Duarte said. “And we need mover and shaker people as well as worker bee people.”

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