Officials Mum On What Happened To $10 Million Donated For Chattanooga History Museum; River City Looking For New Use For Space By Aquarium

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Officials associated with the Chattanooga History Center have been mum about what happened to some $10 million that was donated for a world class facility that never materialized.

Kim White, president of the River City Company, said the downtown development group is looking for a new tenant for the valuable space by the Tennessee Aquarium.

She said History Center officials "have let us know they don’t have the funding to proceed." 

The facility, under former director Daryl Black, was touted as a state-of-the-art presentation of Chattanooga's compelling history.

He chose the New York-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates to design it at a very hefty price tag.

The fundraising dragged on for over a decade with the cost continuing to escalate. At one point Black said he had mistakenly thought the bill would be much less.

A number of local philanthropists got involved and the Lyndhurst Foundation was among the donors.

Members of the media in 2012 were given a tour of the facility with mock ups of the future exhibits. First Tennessee Bank took the occasion to donate $50,000, and Unum chipped in $150,000.

Ms. White said River City tried to help the project along by suspending payments for two years on the space. She said it was done "in order to assist them with the cash flow and to allow them to concentrate on fundraising and completing the exhibits."

To make way for the history museum, the Visitors Bureau was told to go elsewhere. It now operates from only a kiosk at a nearby bus stop.

Ms. White said there are no plans for the Visitors Bureau to move back in.

She said, "We will be working to find the right fit/development for the building."

Of the space, she said, "There are no exhibits in the building, just the renovated shell."

Jo Coke is president of the History Center and Carl Henderson is the secretary-treasurer.


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