Arts Groups Get New Homes

Wilmington, NC –
Railroad Museum On the Move

Moving plans for the Railroad Museum are on are a roll.

Tuesday's City Council meeting benefited both the Wilmington Railroad Museum and the Brooklyn Arts Center, with the council approving a lease for one and a property transfer for the other.

Lease approval means the Railroad Museum is on course to take up residence in the old Atlantic Coastline Railroad's 'Warehouse B,' which the city purchased earlier this year for that purpose.

Under the arrangement, 40% of the museum's annual gross retail and admission income goes to the city, with a minimum payment of $27,000, plus maintenance charges.

However, the museum negotiated a token rent of $120 for the first year and will only turn over 20% during the second.

Railroad Museum Board President, Frank Funk, says the reduced payments free up more money for the museum to handle the cost of renovating Warehouse B and moving their exhibits, a process Funk estimates carries a quarter-million dollar price tag.

Not only does the museum need to shift its rolling stock - the locomotive, boxcar, and caboose that sit outside its current home - but the massive model train sets that are the museum's centerpiece must also be entirely rebuilt.

"You have to start from scratch," Funk says.

Although the buildings and trains are portable, "what's underneath that that you don't see is an awful lot of two-by-fours and lumber and what we call bench work to hold the whole thing up. And what the visitors see is the top 1/16th of an inch... You'd be amazed at the number of things underneath that to support those model trains."

The Railroad Museum's move was prompted by plans to expand the neighboring Best Western motel, which owns its current space in Warehouse A. According to the museum's director, Sadie Hood, the cost of making ADA renovations to the building would also be prohibitively expensive.

The museum closes the doors on its old space in January of next year.

Brooklyn Arts Center Takes Over Building

Warehouse B wasn't the only historic building on the Council's agenda Tuesday night. The city also transfered ownership of Saint Andrews Church on North 4th Street from a private owner to the non-profit currently renovating the space.

Non-profit ownership has been a part of the church's restoration plan since the building was purchased, along with the neighboring manse and the historic fire station across the street, by Northside LLC, owned by developer David Nathans.

According to Erin Deiner, Programs Director for the Brooklyn Arts Center at Saint Andrews, the non-profit created to renovate and run the building, speeding up transfer of the property to her group will open new fundraising options.

"We're interested, as part of our fundraising campaign, in venturing into the sale of historic preservation tax credits," she says. "And in order to do that, the space really needs to be legally owned by the non-profit."

Deiner adds that ownership carries a symbolic weight for her group as well, making it their "110%, true project. This is going to be in the name of the Brooklyn Arts Center for as long as the building still stands."

Renovation of Saint Andrews Church began earlier this summer and is expected to take the next two years. Current plans for the Brooklyn Arts Center include a performance venue, rental space, and a cafe.

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