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Brick by Brick: Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West plans expansion

Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, Sept. 19, is considering the municipal management services contract but also plans for expansion have emerged at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Privately funded expansion before Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, Sept. 19
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

As Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West continues to grow in reputation, success and award-winning exhibitions officials there are readying a privately funded expansion campaign meant to construct a new wing to house more western artifacts for a community that cherishes all things Americana.

Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, Sept. 19, is considering, as the governing body has since Western Spirit opened its doors in 2015 — the municipal management services contract, but also formal plans for expansion have emerged at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

“In Spring 2023, the manager [SMow] announced a privately funded planned expansion to the city-owned 43,000 square foot building,” said Scottsdale Tourism Director Karen Churchard in her Sept. 19 City Council report.

“This new two-story, $12 million capital development project, underwritten by longtime Valley of the Sun automobile dealer, western art collector and philanthropist Louis Sands IV, will expand the footprint of open gallery space with an additional 11,360 square feet for new dynamic and dramatic rotational exhibitions.”

Of Note: the expansion will not increase the management services fees nor changes to the financial participation agreement made by the city and the nonrpofit entity charged with day-to-day management of the facility.

Todd Bankofier is president and CEO of Western Spirit Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, who was hired earlier this year.

“I am truly honored to have been selected to lead this esteemed organization,” Mr. Bankofier told the Arizona Digital Free Press at the time of his selection. “Countless talented people have dedicated so much of their time and treasure to bring about this museum and make it what it is today. I am committed to working with the outstanding team at Western Spirit to continue advancing the museum’s mission and vision, ultimately guiding our award-winning institution to even greater heights.”

Ms. Churchard, in her report to City Council, explains Western Spirit continues to grow in tourism draw year-after-year.

“A Smithsonian affiliate since 2015, SMoW continues to be highly rated on TripAdvisor and since 2016 consistently listed as one of the best museums in the nation by True West Magazine – just recently being awarded the No. 1 spot for Top Western Museums of the West 2023,” she said.

“The museum celebrates Western Heritage by showcasing art, culture and traditions of the West that reflect the greater American West region, accomplished through western art and history, art and .artifacts, interpretive and public programs, permanent and changing exhibits, media, interpretive ideas, educational programs, and programmatic tie-ins to other institutions.”

The city of Scottsdale has maintained a formal management agreement with the Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Inc. since February 2013 whereas the nonprofit entity serves as manager of the facility at 3830 N. Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale.

photo of western spirit
A picturesque view of Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. (Photo: SMoW/DigitalFreePress)
Key pieces of City Council consideration for expansion at Western Spirit

The planned expansion — which will be designed by StudioMa and built by CORE Construction — will be at the southwestern corner of the existing building and will include two floors and two new galleries.

“The expansion cost is estimated to be $12 million, to be funded by the manager [SMow] through a charitable gift agreement,” Ms. Churchard explains. “Brick-by-brick, the manager will donate the expansion of building to the city. The construction will be completed within two years and have limited impact on the current facility and parking.”

The original cost of the facility was $13.6 million, the staff report states.

City officials say a construction agreement is necessary to address construction and guaranteed funding to by approved in tandem with the annual management services agreement.

Provided by City Hall, these are key considerations later this month for elected leaders:

  • Stating all improvements shall be designed and constructed by the museum at their soie cost and expense.
  • Ownership of improvements are considered owned by city and as such, upon construction (brick by brick), title to all such improvements is transferred to city.
  • Outlining the city’s approvals of all elements of the project
  • All manager improvements to comply with the design requirements to present uniformity of design, function, appearance, and quality throughout and consistency with other building and improvements.
  • Requiring city and manager to designate a construction manager to coordinate each parties’ participation in designing and constructing the improvements.
  • Requiring manager to provide funding assurances at least two weeks prior to commencing construction.
  • Requiring manager to have their contractor have a payment bond or a performance bond.
  • Requiring insurance be extended to the expansion.
  • Documenting the process for approval of the marshaling yard and other logistics the MMA provides for:
  • Annual fee by city to manager is not to exceed $650,000, which is the amount the city has provided to manager the last two fiscal years. The expansion will not increase the management services fees nor changes to the financial participation agreement made by the city to the manager. (Sec. 4.1)
  • A new section outlines museum-owned art and new art collection shall always conform to generally recognized standards and guidelines for the acquisition, display, exhibition, storage, conservation, disposition and decommission of artwork.
  • The city’s maintenance responsibilities remain the same as in the original building, and city facilities staff estimates $40,000 per year for additional city expenses, based on the added square footage for those items the city has responsibility.

Scottsdale City Council will consider this item Tuesday, Sept. 19, during a public hearing at City Hall.

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