Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's the $2,425,304 question

Q: What's six stories tall, very shiny, empty inside, and still costing Akron-area folks millions?

A: The Inventors Hall of Fame Museum.

The current debt is $2,425,304 to be exact (I'm assuming the price I got from city hall today is in even dollars .. although there could be some change tacked on at the end I suppose). That's a little more than $10 for every man, woman, and child in Akron.

The original price tag was around $38 million in city, county, and state money (gold coins maybe???) and some private donations as well.

But now, 13+ years after the building opened for business on Broadway Avenue, the National Hall of Fame is taking its busts of Albert Einstein and Eli Whitney and moving out. Their lease with the city is up Aug. 15th, and they're moving their jobs and other resources into office and supply space at Canal Place on Main Street.

I'm not sure who invented the moving van, but the HOF folks will be singing their praises as they peddle up the street.

Certainly Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center didn't help .. stealing much of the same audience.

Truth is that the Inventor's Hall of Fame just didn't hold the same interest as other HOF's. My kids might enjoy seeing Terry Bradshaw or Paul Brown at the Pro Football HOF in Canton, but they just didn't get the same experience seeing Daryl Chapin, who invented the Silicon Solar Cell.
Mayor Plusquellic agreed.

"Going by and looking at the busts of old, dead men isn't like real exciting for anybody," he said at his Tuesday Press Conference. "What was the exciting part was the hands-on science museum."

Plusquellic sounded like Tom Hanks playing "Josh Baskin" in the classic movie Big. Hanks' character gets hired by a toy company that shows him a robot that transforms into a building. Everyone around him likes the idea, but Hanks says "what's fun about that?"

He's right. And he's not the only one.

Kids didn't really care for the busts of men and women they've never met .. or in many cases even heard of. They liked the hands-on make-it-and-take-it area where they could tear stuff apart and rebuild it. They just didn't like it enough to keep coming back and buying admission.

So now comes the new Akron Middle School ... which is being built adjacent to the Museum. The good news is that the school can literally have as much of the museum as it would like (in theory). The bad news is "what will they do with all of that space?" (here's a drawing of the school-museum combo from the Akron Schools website)

A community group of leaders from the City, University of Akron, and Akron Schools will now work to redevelop some kind of interactive program on the museum floor that can be of use to Akron School students while also being a draw for the community again.

At least the school is going in .. so that there's still some activity at the site.

But right now, this feels like we bought a bad car .... the kind that dies and you put it in the dumper while still owing a bunch of payments.

$2,425,304 to be exact.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't the original intent to have the school and the museum CO-EXIST in this space? Can't the so-called math and science middle school now be located just about anywhere? Why Inventure Place?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that this will fit nicely inside of GOP Headquarters on the 3rd floor after Alex misses his Caddy payment since the Republican party is out of money.

Anonymous said...

That is how these politicians in this city work. They knew long ago the IHOF closing down so they now justify wasting all that money by putting a school there.

Ben said...

it really never seemed like a good idea

Anonymous said...

UA needs classrooms!!!

Anonymous said...

Eric, I have to ask you. Are you guys and gals in the Akron press market ever going to call Plusquellic out on his hair brained ideas? Were still paying on this and how many police do we need for the rising crime in Akron? Why do we need to buy and maintain Young's restaurant? and so on?

Anonymous said...

The school is getting most of it's support and funding from the UofA, grant monies, and big business. The school, both in design and curriculum, is already getting awards and praise nationally. The HOF has had 'buyers remorse' every since it agreed to place it's facility in Akron. The school will finally give meaning to a 'dead spot' in downtown Akron.

Eric Mansfield said...

We question the mayor weekly on all issues across the board, including the ones you've raised.
The public doesn't always hear or read the answers because there's only so much of on politician that should be in the daily paper or a news broadcast.
In other words, we (the press) may grill him on five topics in one news conference, but do you really want the entire evening news or ABJ's front page covered in what DP said? I'll tell you this: in 16 years of covering Akron City Hall, DP has never once told me "no comment."
As for police officers, the city put two classes through its academy in the past year and just last week sent out a news release asking for people to apply.
To call the Inventor's HOF a "hairbrained" idea is a lot of second guessing. The plan was approved 15 years ago with an understanding that the HOF was more committed than it turne out that it actually was. It was also built before the Great Lakes Science Center, which has seized much of its audience.
That's not an endorsement of the HOF building, which I thought should have come after a school was built instead of before, but rather it's the facts as they are.
And if you're going to take aim at the ideas that failed, make sure to include those that succeed too.
Stay in touch .. Eric

Anonymous said...

Ok, you are correct. I just believe it's money (Of ours) that could be better spent, sorry that is the way I am. I just believe that the HOF did not have to be so grandious (SP). I know that I am not involved in the "Nuts and Bolts" of the decision process downtown because of work. Could the planing commission maybe make available at least some things on line for comment? I know the temptation is always there to be a critique on everything he does (yes I am a Republican) but there are those on his side of the isle as well. Keep up the good work Eric I really appreaciate it. (Aura! From a Navy guy).