Waynesboro approves $1 million in incentives for Virginia Museum of Natural History

waynesboroWaynesboro City Council approved a resolution Monday providing $1 million in incentives to the Virginia Museum of Natural History to build a Waynesboro campus downtown.

The package includes direct financial contributions, in-kind support and real property and is contingent on the additional financial support from the Commonwealth of Virginia of not less than $7,000,000 for the construction of a new building in downtown Waynesboro.

The resolution passed tonight is similar to ones passed by previous Councils in 2015 and 2016 and confirms the City’s support of the project.

Since 2011, City Officials, the Economic Development Authority (EDA), and the Center for Coldwater Restoration have been working with the VMNH in Martinsville to locate a Campus in Waynesboro. The VMNH Board of Trustees has determined that the Waynesboro Campus should be located in the downtown area to be in close proximity to the South entrance to the Shenandoah National Park and the 300,000 travelers that use the Rockfish Gap gate each year and to augment the existing cultural amenities and recreational opportunities in the area.

The City Council and EDA along with private contributions and grants have helped fund a number of studies to determine the feasibility of such a center.  A key finding of those studies is that it is financially feasible and the regional market could support a Virginia Museum of Natural History – Waynesboro Campus, conceived as a 25,000 square foot facility including exhibits focused on the natural history of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge region.

Specific features of the facility would include:

  • Exciting, creative exhibits interpreting the local environment and natural history using some of the 10 million artifacts currently housed in Martinsville;
  • Environmental classrooms supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and providing an opportunity for some 63,000 K-12 students in the region to explore and learn;
  • A ‘playscape’ interactive area for early childhood learning;
  • Publicly viewable laboratories where curators and university partners will have an opportunity to work and learn;
  • A resource for partners in public programs and scientific research that will include the Wildlife Center of Virginia, James Madison University, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

It is estimated that the center would attract between 45,332 and 85,832 visitors a year that include both residents in the region, visitors to the Valley and tourists traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive with a total annual economic impact of $1,800,000.  Initial estimates indicate that the Waynesboro Campus will be an investment of $10,000,000 to construct and equip and that a corporate and public philanthropic giving campaign will provide a minimum of $2,000,000 towards the project with the remainder coming from State and local government funds.

The Commonwealth’s General Assembly confirmed its support of the project with a budget allocation of $250,000 for engineering and architectural work in the FY 19 budget.

“We are delighted to be working with the Virginia Museum of Natural History on their project to build a central Virginia campus, right here in beautiful downtown Waynesboro” says Waynesboro Mayor Terry Short.  “The outstanding support of our local state delegation to the General Assembly, and the allocation of $250,000, is further evidence that support for the museum is strong and it will be a significant cultural amenity for not just the region, but for all Virginians”.

“The revitalization of downtown is a major goal of the city,” said Greg Hitchin, CEcD, Director of Economic Development and Tourism for the City of Waynesboro.  “A campus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Waynesboro is a huge step in redefining our landscape and will provide an exceptional opportunity for citizens throughout the region, while drawing many visitors, providing jobs and supporting small businesses.”

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