Rehoboth museum plans expansionCity considers forgiving existing loan, investing in building
Rehoboth Beach — The Rehoboth Beach Museum, ready to expand to its second floor, has asked city officials to forgive the remaining $125,000 of a $250,000 loan to the museum in 2008.
The city commissioners are viewing the request as a reinvestment in the museum. The city owns the land and the building, and Mayor Sam Cooper said he views the museum as an ideal use of the property.
“It’s just a very good tenant,” Cooper said. “I’m excited about what they’ve done there.”
The museum opened in 2008. The Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, which runs the museum, had originally planned a two-floor facility. The first floor was completed thanks to a $250,000 loan from the city. Cooper said the society has not missed a payment on the loan, of which $125,000 remains.
Society President Paul Kuhns said the timing is right for the society to begin work on the second floor. He said the society has already raised 50 percent of what it needs to move forward.
“This would be a huge psychological motivation for our donors to contribute more because the city is behind the project,” Kuhns said.
He said second-floor plans include more exhibit space, room for children’s education initiatives and an auditorium for presentations. Kuhns said if fundraising goes well, the second floor could be ready in two to three years.
Funding issues, such as the $75,000 cost of an elevator for handicapped access, has until now prevented the society from building the second floor.
The building at 511 Rehoboth Ave. had been home to the old Rehoboth Ice House, and was later converted into a liquor store by Butch McQuay. In 1998, the city purchased the property and the building. In 2002, spearheaded by the late Warren MacDonald, the city and the historical society signed a 50-year lease to turn the building into a museum.
The measure will be framed as an amendment to the museum’s lease with the city, and Cooper said he hopes to have it ready for a vote at the commissioners’ Friday, Dec. 20 meeting.