BEAUFORT — Following two different Monday evening presentations, organizers behind efforts to construct a new N.C. Maritime Museum and campus managed to garner a county contribution totaling $600,000.
Commissioner Ed Wheatly suggested the county make the donation to the Maritime Heritage Foundation of Beaufort to help with their ongoing fundraising efforts for the project.
“This project will be a game changer for Beaufort and Carteret County,” Mr. Wheatly said. “I see it … having the same effect that the aquarium did on Pine Knoll Shores.”
So far organizers have directly raised $1.8 million. They said they also hope to pursue a number of grants and other funding packages, including money earmarked in the state’s upcoming fiscal 2019-20 year budget.
The county’s $600,000 donation will come from funds earmarked for economic development.
“So we’re not spending money from our fund balance or general fund,” County Chairperson Mark Mansfield said.
According to a presentation given Monday night to Beaufort town commissioners at their meeting in the town hall commissioners’ boardroom and to county commissioners during their meeting at the administration building, the project will relocate the maritime museum from its current home on Front Street in Beaufort to the Gallants Channel annex property.
The new building on Gallants Channel would allow for more exhibit space, according to findings from the project’s economic impact study, released last week.
“The recommended plan for the new Maritime Museum at Gallants Channel is a (plus or minus) 80,000 square foot museum to be designed and developed,” reads an excerpt from the study.
Organizers behind the study told Beaufort commissioners they aren’t completely sure what they plan to do with the current building on Front Street.
The primary reason behind the relocation effort is to accommodate how popular the museum has become, according to ConsultEcon senior associate James Stevens.
Maritime Heritage Foundation officials solicited help from Massachusetts-based consulting firm ConsultEcon for the economic impact study and Monday’s presentations.
“A lot of those visitors are coming from out of the county,” Mr. Stevens said.
Relocating the museum is only part of the total project, which entails the construction of a maritime center on the same property.
“A (plus or minus) 4,000 square foot Maritime Center will support expansion of maritime and marine science programming, junior and adult sailing programs and promote expanded use of the Gallants Channel site,” reads the study.
During Beaufort’s presentation, officials said the scope of the project rivals that of the recently completed high-rise bridge across Gallants Channel.
“This is a very large construction project,” Mr. Stevens said at Beaufort’s meeting.
Later in the evening, at the county meeting, Mr. Stevens said the museum project, like the high-rise bridge project, could take several years to complete.
“There is roughly a 10-year time frame,” he said.
Mr. Stevens told Beaufort commissioners the total capital costs for the project is around $60 million. The annex property was purchased years ago by the state.
Beaufort Commissioner Sharon Harker asked about the ratio of in-county employees versus out-of-county employees. Mr. Stevens it was still too early in the process to answer that question definitively.
When the museum is complete, it will employ an estimated 28 full-time employees and 27 part-time employees.
Beaufort Commissioner Ann Carter asked how many people are currently employed at the museum on Front Street. There are 21 full-time employees and about three part-time, according to Mr. Stevens.
At the county presentation, Mr. Mansfield expressed support for the project, saying the Maritime Museum in its current form is already one of the state’s top museums.
“I see this being the anchor,” Mr. Mansfield said. “You know, solidify us as a tourist destination. The Crystal Coast is one of the top visited locations and Beaufort. Southern Living named them the best small town in America. I believe (the museum) is a perfect fit.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.