Friends of the Zeiss
P.O. Box 1041
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.
Electronic Mail: < email@example.com >
Internet Web Site: < http://www.friendsofthezeiss.org >
2002 August 26
Good evening. I am Glenn A. Walsh, and I reside at 633 Royce Avenue in Mount Lebanon. I am Project Director of Friends of the Zeiss, which is working to preserve the historic equipment and artifacts of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
We oppose the capital grant request, by the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, of $200,000 for rehabilitation of their current home, the old Allegheny Post Office. It was only in the Autumn of 1998 that this space received an $800,000 rehabilitation, funded by several foundations!
It makes no sense to now spend more money to convert newly-renovated exhibit gallery space into office space. Office space would be a very poor use of this space. And, if this exhibit gallery space is retained, there would be no need to downgrade a large auditorium into exhibit gallery space, namely Buhl Planetarium's Theater of the Stars with the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector!
Vacant office space, for the Children's Museum's partners, is available in an office building just across the Allegheny Square Plaza! If these partners cannot afford the office building rent, will their rent payments to the Children's Museum really be significant enough to help defray the expanded building's operating costs? Or will the Children's Museum seek a higher RAD operating subsidy, once the expanded building opens?
As many of you know, I served five years on the Board of Trustees of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie Borough--one year as Library Treasurer. The Library rented space to several non-profit organizations, particularly for the Music Hall, Lecture Hall, and Gymnasium spaces. Carnegie Borough officials always argued that our rents were too low. Yet, had we raised the rent, we would have lost most of the non-profit renters, as non-profit organizations can only pay so much.
The Children's Museum will have the same exact problem. They will only be able to charge so much to non-profit tenants. This probably will not be enough to subsidize the much larger operation in the new building.
Groundbreaking for the expanded Children's Museum, scheduled for June, has been delayed indefinitely, due to the lack of State funding for their project. Proposals, with strong political backing, for the State to pay $90 million for a new hockey arena and $35 million for a US Airways maintenance facility, will mean that the $7-10 million sought for the proposed Children's Museum project will probably not be funded within the next two years, or longer! And, remember, Phipps Conservatory is still waiting for $5 million in State funding for their expansion project.
The $200,000 currently requested by the Children's Museum will not be able to be spent until State funding is secured for their project, and, hence, they are sure that the additional exhibit space will be available. They cannot eliminate current exhibit space until it can be replaced, as part of the proposed project.
Should you choose to give the Children's Museum the $200,000 requested, or a portion of the amount, we do ask that this funding be contingent on the historic equipment and artifacts remaining in the Buhl Planetarium building. However, Friends of the Zeiss does oppose this grant request.