London's Children's Museum

DALE CARRUTHERS / THE LONDON FREE PRESS / QMI AGENCY  |  www.lfpress.com

London's Children's MuseumThe London Children's Museum site has been for sale since October. Officials aren't saying if any offers have been received. 

It only costs $7 to go to London’s Children’s Museum but that’s chump change compared to what officials there were seeking to sell the property for — $2.25 million.

The seven-figure asking price was put out in October and it’s not clear whether anyone answered the call. Museum executive director Amanda Conlon wouldn’t comment about the sale process though she spoke enthusiastically of the future.

“We have completed the community consultation phase of our plan and are in the midst of analysing the data and making some key decisions. We look forward to continued community engagement through this exciting process,” she said on the weekend.

This much is certain, at least according to a veteran of real estate in London: The most viable sort of building there is a highrise, and that’s not likely coming to the main stage without an opening act by a wrecking ball.

“I don’t see any commercial use,” said Peter Whatmore, a senior vice-president with commercial realty giant CBRE Ltd.

There isn’t enough foot traffic along Wharncliffe to support retail and the city is already glutted with vacant office space, he said.

But the site’s location on the Thames River and its direct access to west London means it has excellent potential as home to a highrise, Whatmore said.

“I see it as a very interesting redevelopment site,” he said. “I love the site.”

But if multi-residential development is in the future of the site on Wharncliffe Rd. South, then the current building almost certainly will have to go, Whatmore said.

The 1915 building, first used a school, isn’t likely large enough to make an investment viable.

“I can’t imagine they’d do it with the existing building,” Whatmore said.

His comments contrast with the pitch the museum’s realtors have made — their ad boasts the sale would give the buyer a rare chance to own a “London landmark.”

The museum site was put up for sale in October, and potential buyers were told they had until Nov. 20 to submit a bid.

The sale wouldn’t be a straight-forward one: The museum wants to stay in the building until it find a new, bigger space, paying a lease in the meantime to whomever buys the building.

Proceeds for any sale are key as the museum doesn’t have a capital fund and would rely on cash from the sale and a fundraising campaign that has not yet begun.

Backers of the museum hope a move would breathe life and revenue into the place after a couple of years running deficits. The existing building is just too small to create the sort of exhibits that will draw more people, officials have said.

About 75% of the museum’s operating budget comes from admissions and the rest from government funding and private donors.

Finding a new property may take several years, and the museum will hold public meetings before making a decision, officials have said.

jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/JSHERatLFPress

Museum origins

Carol Johnston, a public health nurse and supply teacher, visited a children’s museum in Boston in 1973 and was determined to start one in London.
Johnston founded the museum in 1975 with materials donated by neighbours and businesses.
The museum moved to its current home in 1982 after five years in the City Centre Mall, spending $1.5 million to renovate the Wharncliffe site.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 80,000: visitors each year
  • 9: permanent exhibits
  • 28,370: sq. ft. of floor space
  • 9: full-time employees
  • 100: volunteers
  • 250: museum members
  • $1.2M: annual operating budget