McGregor open to partnering with museum on shared space

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By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The city of McGregor is open to exploring a potential shared space with the McGregor Historical Museum in the future Great River Road Discovery Center building.


The historical society’s building committee, in a preliminary site selection workshop held this past month, determined it would like to pursue the Sullivan Opera House/hardware store property for expansion of the museum. The site is located next to the current museum on Main Street, and is one of several McGregor properties owned by Jeff and Jenifer Westphal.


The museum board will continue to work with RDG Planning & Design, the firm tapped by the Westphals to evaluate all the McGregor properties, on further analysis to ensure use of the Sullivan site is possible.


“We’re looking at keeping the façade for historical purposes, but the rest of the building will be re-done,” explained Mel Wild, museum president and a McGregor city council member, at the Feb. 21 council meeting. “We’re at the point now where we’re looking at space and determining what to put where. We know the issue here at city hall with office space, and even at the chamber of commerce. If people wanted to share space and have some form of partnership on this project, we should start to look at that.” 


Municipalities sharing space with other entities isn’t uncommon, said Wild. Locally, Marquette city hall and the community center is located in the same building as the Cobblestone Hotel, and Elkader city offices are within the opera house building.


Council member Charlie Carroll wondered if there would be room for city hall, citing concepts proposed at a Great River Road Discovery Center informational meeting last spring.


“The concepts you saw at the meeting, what’s nice about them is those can be scaled down or up depending on the size we need. We believe there is space to do that. We have a lot of leeway there to use the space the best way possible,” Wild said.


Brandi Crozier, McGregor deputy city clerk/economic development lead and a liaison to the historical society board, called the simulation “dreaming big.”


“I’m not saying we won’t still dream big,” she said, “but as the numbers start coming in to what something like this is going to cost, we’re going to have to get real too. There would be more opportunity for collaboration and sharing of resources and some of the overhead costs—heat, internet.”


A new location could also offer more privacy and a more suitable work environment than the current city hall.


“City hall looks OK for a meeting like this, but it’s horrible for day-to-day operations,” said mayor Lyle Troester.


“And it’s not just about privacy. It’s open to the public, and anyone can walk in at any time,” Crozier added. “It’s also just noise value. It’s hard to concentrate when somebody else has something going on. You can shut these doors, but it really doesn’t matter.”


Council member Janet Hallberg liked that a potential move could put city hall downtown, closer to businesses.


Troester felt it would not only make the Great River Road Discovery Center building more viable, but release the city from its current building and put it back on the tax roll.


Crozier stressed the council’s willingness to move forward isn’t a commitment to moving city hall, but rather to a partnership.


“We’re asking if you’d like to partner with the museum in determining if this might be a viable proposition to work together on—a shared space,” she said.

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