19 January 2015

New Brunswick Museum eyes Saint John park for expansion site

Director hopes a new $40M collections centre will be open in 2017 so existing building can be repaired

CBC News

The New Brunswick Museum is seeking permission to drill a series of test bores in Saint John's Riverview Park to see if it could be home for a $40-million expansion of its collections centre.

Museum officials are working under a tight timeline to find a new home for the collections centre after learning the existing facility on Douglas Avenue is unsafe.

Jane Fullerton, the museum's chief executive officer, said the museum must leave its existing location as soon as possible so the building’s entire roof can be replaced.

"The structural engineer that has looked at that building has certainly indicated that a couple of more years we should be out of there,” Fullerton said.

"Obviously, given the collections that are there, but also the staff and public and volunteers that work in that building, we need to be able to honour that."

The facility, houses hundreds of millions of dollars worth of artifacts, but the building was constructed in the 1930s and does not have a fire suppression system, proper lab space or climate control.

The building has also been deteriorating due to issues with heating, ventilation and water leaks.

The museum is looking for a new site for the planned 5,760-square-metre addition.

The new facility will include environmentally controlled storage rooms for collections, laboratories, program rooms and public access areas.

Fullerton said she hopes to start construction of an expansion project in a year, with pricing and design work completed this spring. It is hoped land can be cleared this fall with construction completed by the end of 2017.

The museum’s request to drill the test holes in the city-owned park will be discussed at Monday night’s Saint John council meeting.

"We're going to be doing some geotechnical behind the museum — sort of in the parking lot in that area — and then also in the park and use that information to help inform what could happen,” she said.

A public open house is scheduled for next Monday evening to discuss the project.

The museum's expansion plans have already received $1.1 million in funding from the provincial government.