State and local dignitaries were among about 100 people attending the ceremonial groundbreaking of the future Museum of Light Art in midtown Manhattan.
Friday marked the official start of construction on the $43 million facility after it jumped a number of hurdles in securing STAR bond financing and getting the city’s approval to proceed. Read more here.
“I could go on and on today, but what you have to recognize today in Manhattan is that we have become — and are becoming — an oasis for the arts,” said Robert De Bruyne, who developed the museum with his wife, Tracy . “We hope that the Museum of Art and Light will just help complement and build on what we already have here.”
Originally planned and approved to be built in the parking lot southeast of the Flint Hills Discovery Center, the DeBruyn’s reconsidered the location after 2021 amid opposition due to concerns about parking and the potential impact on neighboring property owners.
Developers are turning their attention to a parcel of land at Pierre and 3rd streets in midtown Manhattan with the intention of incorporating existing structures like the old Sears building into an overall design that will also include a new 40,000-square-foot, 65-foot-tall structure.
Robert DeBruyn, also the founder of Master Teacher, Inc., says the museum will feature a mix of immersive and digital artwork alongside more traditional works by renowned masters as well as members of the local community.
Tracey DeBruyn thanked everyone who had a hand in getting the project to this point, especially co-founders Ronald Bowman and Stanley Zukowfsky, as well as members of their board of directors and local city and chamber officials.
“I have to tell you, these people could not have been more important to us and more helpful to us throughout this process,” says Tracy De Bruyn. “And it was long, so thanks.”
The DeBruyns say a major component that makes the project viable is the STAR bonds, which city commissioners voted to expand the Downtown STAR bond area by a block to encompass the site selected for the museum. This opens up a development opportunity for an estimated $23 million in sales tax revenue expected to be generated in the district by 2026, with the remainder coming from private sources.
Kansas Lt. Gov. and Commerce Department David Toland told the city and developers earlier this year that the project would qualify for funding, and attended Friday’s groundbreaking.
“Having spent a lot of time in Manhattan over the past week, and certainly over the past three and a half years since I’ve been in office, I can tell you that everyone should be wearing sunglasses because the future here is incredibly bright,” Toland says. “There’s so much going on in Manhattan and it’s very exciting.”
Toland called the museum project “transformative” for the region as well as the state, and something he believes will generate significant economic positives.
“It’s going to bring in a lot of money, it’s going to put a lot of heads in bed here in Manhattan, and I think it’s going to change the image of not only this region, but our state as a whole,” Toland says.
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jason Smith wrapped up the morning’s remarks, but not before welcoming Catzy Buffalohead to give a blessing. Buffalohead is an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation with ancestry from the Ponca Nation, the Citizen Potatawomi Nation, and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.
Smith says he first heard about the concept for the museum nearly three years ago, and wasn’t optimistic about its prospects at the time.
“Projects like these just don’t happen in middle America, in smaller communities — these things happen in big cities,” says Smith.
As DeBruyn continued to work, Smith says he began to realize the museum was about to become a reality — saying he’s never seen a more determined group of developers in 30 years.
“On behalf of all of you and on behalf of Manhattan and on behalf of everyone in the region, I want to thank the De Bruyne family for all their hard work — all their tenacity to bring this project to fruition today,” Smith says. “It all starts here today.”