Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Detroit's Science Center Has New Name and New Operator; Hopes for Fall Reopening

by Joe Kleiman, IPM Online News Editor

Detroit, MI, USA (September 11, 2012) -- Following the sudden closure of the Detroit Science Center a year ago (on Sept 26, 2011) due to "financial hardship," things took a turn for the worse. Citizens Bank of Flint, its largest creditor, requested the Science Center liquidate its assets to pay off an outstanding debt of $6.2 million.

With a July 5, 2012 public auction looming for the liquidation, Ambassador Ronald Weiser, a former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party and Trustee of the Henry Ford museum in nearby Flint, arranged with Citizens to purchase the museum's land, building, assets, and outstanding debt at a reduced cost.  As part of his plan, he helped form a new nonprofit entity called "Michigan Science Center," a completely different organization than the one operating Detroit Science Center at the time of its closure. Ambassador Weiser's wife Eileen, who was instrumental in the design and implementation of his strategy, sits on the Michigan Science Center board.

For Weiser's plan to succeed, Michigan Science Center will not be able to incur debt.  All funding will either come from donations or from sales.  To date, the nonprofit has commitments of more than $2.5 million, including $1 million from the General Motors Foundation.  Once the existing debt has been paid off to Weiser, the property and contents will be sold to the new foundation at a discounted cost.

Board members are meeting this week to determine a possible opening date, predicted to be this fall.  As an indication that things are progressing, Detroit Science Center's facebook page was recently changed to reflect the museum's new name and a new website is currently under construction.  

One other area museum, the Detroit Children's Museum, was operated under contract by the Detroit Science Center and closed shortly after the Science Center due to the larger institution's financial issues. Operation of the Children's Museum has reverted to its owner, Detroit Public Schools, and it is open on a limited basis to public school children from within the district during the school day.  Detroit Public Schools is considering opening the Children's Museum to other schools and the public should federal or state funding be made available to supplement operating costs.  At this time, there is no word on the new Science Center entering into a operational contract with the school district.

RELATED: Detroit Science Center Could Face Liquidation