The MHN Blog is a companion to the Maritime Heritage Network, a not-for-profit, comprehensive website of maritime heritage organizations, attractions, and activities in the Pacific Northwest. The blog highlights news, activities, and resources useful to the entire maritime heritage community. All views expressed are the author's own. Opposing views are welcome.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Steinbrueck Says What He Wants from MOHAI

Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck says he expects the Museum of History & Industry to make maritime heritage "more than a token presence" at South Lake Union Park if the museum takes over the Naval Reserve Building. To make that vision happen, he says he may hold MOHAI accountable for $1 million he says MOHAI owes the city.

Steinbrueck met with representatives from MOHAI and the Seattle Parks Foundation this week to discuss MOHAI's upcoming request to the city council to authorize negotiations with the city on a lease or purchase of the NRB for a new MOHAI facility. MOHAI announced last month that it wants to move from McCurdy Park to SLUP. The museum will make a formal presentation to the council on Wednesday, August 16, at 2 p.m. The full council must approve a final agreement.

Steinbrueck told MOHAI and the Parks Foundation, which is working with MOHAI on the proposed move, that maritime heritage should be a key focus of the facility, and that it should incorporate the recommendations of the 2005 Seattle King County Maritime Heritage Task Force. The city council has made it clear over the years that it expects South Lake Union Park to have a strong maritime heritage theme.

That maritime heritage focus, Steinbrueck says, should include an intact Wawona. MOHAI and Northwest Seaport, owner of the historic schooner, are working on a plan to dry berth Wawona for display at South Lake Union Park. The city has proposed "disposing and demolishing" the ship if it is not moved by Sept. 30. Pieces of the vessel would be saved, under the city's plan. However, I hear consistent rumors that the city has informally backed off that deadline, in part because it cannot obtain the needed permits by its self-imposed deadline. Talks about the vessel herself are ongoing.

Steinbrueck also asked the Parks Foundation for "flexibility" in its plans for the Park, complaining that the current plans, which don't include space for displaying Wawona on land, are overly rigid. Steinbrueck said the Foundation was receptive to the idea of revisions to the plan.

The councilmember said he will ask for an accounting of $1 million he says MOHAI owes the city. In 2003, MOHAI purchased property from the convention center, which later became a temporary city central library while the new one, now open, was under construction. Included in the deal was an obligation to pay the city $2 million if MOHAI did not open a museum on the site by 2007. The obligation was reduced in 2004 to $1 million, but now that MOHAI has all but abandoned plans for the downtown location, Steinbrueck says he will use the obligation as leverage in discussions about the move to SLUP. "We're not going to just write the obligation off," Steinbrueck says.

What's your view? Is this the right thing for Steinbrueck to do? Should the obligation be forgiven? Intelligent anonymous comments are welcome. Screen names or real names preferred.


Anonymous PMac said...

Why, why, why does MOHAI not want to go to the Convention Center? I don't understand, and would very much welcome some insight on this.

I can't imagine a better location -- there are oodles of people down there, all the buses run downtown so you don't have to worry about parking, there are millions of visitors right there, and -- best of all -- you can rent out space to visiting conferences every other night of the year, and make a FORTUNE at it! Imagine: a reception area adjacent to the Conv Ctr (but not in it, so conventioneers feel like they're leaving), with information and interesting exhibits about the city they're visiting. It would be unique, and they could bankroll their entire annual budget that way. (A quality gift store, open during these events, could underwrite bonuses for all the top administrators.) Oh, and their gate count would be through the roof.

Why is MOHAI so set on SLUP? I wrote earlier (anonymously, just cause I don't know what screen name to use) that they need to decide what kind of a museum they'll be.

Here's what they should do: Change their name and their focus. Become "The Museum of Seattle", or T-Moss for short (OK, they could also be "The Museum of Seattle History," and with a nod to grunge be known as T-MOSH). Create quality exhibits about Seattle history, regional development, etc. Build multi-purpose rooms where conventioneers can have receptions: what businessperson wouldn't enjoy a reception in a room filled with artifacts from Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Boeing, Costco, etc.?

Or, highlight the smaller companies that make the city great. How about a reception room that describes companies under 10 people in size?

And remember, this is all just for the rooms where they have receptions.

Other exhibits would focus on the history of the city, of course, and would be included on peoples' itineraries, along with (or, even, in place of) the Underground Tour. How about an exhibit about the creation of Harbor Island, with instructions to walk 8 blocks and see the thing itself? Heck, you could almost *see* the ferries while you're visiting an exhibit about them and the impact they've had on the city!!

My real interest is in a true maritime history museum at SLUP. But when I step back, I wonder why MOHAI apparently wants that site so badly. If they just wanted to get out of Montlake, I'd understand it. But I always thought the WSCTC site was ideal for them, and I truly, truly, truly want to understand why they want to throw that away. Is this a Seattle thing? It's PSMHS, circa 2000, choosing between Ballard and SLUP, all over again.

Please, please enlighten me. I am listening...

12:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

MOHAI hasn't really said publicly why it's interested in SLUP over downtown. You could guess that the downtown location isn't working out financially, e.g., the money isn't there to make the move. You should pose the question to the MOHAI people. If you're a member, they're sure to respond. They might even respond if you're not a member.

4:28 PM


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