Department of Commerce OKs STAR bonds for new Museum of Art and Light – Manhattan Mercury

The new Museum of Art and Light project is moving forward following the approval of $23 million in sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

David Toland, Kansas lieutenant governor and secretary of commerce, confirmed the issuance of the bonds to the city via letter earlier this month. City manager Ron Fehr received the letter June 7, said Vivienne Uccello, public information officer.

“We are certainly very pleased with the Department of Commerce approval for the project and eligibility for STAR Bond financing,” Fehr said in an email to The Mercury on Tuesday. “It certainly has great potential to be a significant attraction to the community, region, state and Midwest.”

Mayor Wynn Butler also made an announcement Monday night on his mayor Facebook page.

The Museum of Art and Light Inc. will operate the museum. Bob and Tracey DeBruyn, a husband-and-wife team who operates The Master Teacher in Manhattan, will serve on the nonprofit organization’s board.

Organizers want to acquire about $21 million in private donations and use $23 million in STAR Bond funds to create the three-story, 50,000 square-foot museum with immersive exhibits and displays.

The city estimates the total project cost at $43.6 million plus the cost of the land. Half of that would be generated by state sales tax revenue and the other half would come from private donations.

Mayor Wynn Butler anticipates the city, at worse case scenario, putting about $750,000 indirectly to the project. That’s because the city is set to pay off the bonds that underwrote downtown redevelopment by the end of the month. The local government uses transient guest tax and sales tax money generated by the district to pay off those bonds.

Developers expect the museum generating over $15 million annually from visitors seeing the museum and spending time in Manhattan.

“If that’s the case and you can believe those numbers, it’s a great investment,” Butler told The Mercury on Tuesday morning. “I’m not sure if I buy the numbers.”

During Tuesday’s city commission meeting, commissioners in a second reading will look to amend the STAR Bonds in the consent agenda for the creation of the museum next to the Flint Hills Discovery Center. The next steps are zoning and development agreements, Uccello said.

“I’ve always spoken about responsible growth,” Butler said. “I think this fits the bill. It’s not another (Flint Hills Discovery Center).”