MOHAI Thrilled to Begin Construction

After successfully ratifying their agreement with the city, MOHAI is thrilled about moving ahead with the construction phase of the Naval Reserve Building (Armory) in Lake Union Park.  In January of 2011, construction crews will begin upgrading the building to museum quality standards, while preserving its significant historical attributes. The Grand Opening is planned for mid-2012 and will coincide with MOHAI’s 60th Anniversary of service to the community. MOHAI estimates that 120,000 visitors each year will tour the new Museum of History and Industry.

"We were so heartened and humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support for the museum," said MOHAI Executive Director Leonard Garfield, in regard to the public discussion during the recent dispute with the City of Seattle.  "The support was across the board – and frankly we were surprised by the breadth and passion of the support we received from people who said they believe in us."

The disagreement with the city is complex and there has been some misinformation. The one thing that Garfield wants to stress is that the monetary resources needed to transform MOHAI are coming from the state – not the city. No city money is being taken away from other projects to fund MOHAI.  MOHAI’s current Montlake location was needed for the State Route 520 floating bridge expansion project. The state compensated MOHAI for the property and expenses involved in relocation.

This summer Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn asked to renegotiate the plan when MOHAI received more state money than was expected from the mitigation negotiations. In September the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to hold the city to the original deal that allows the museum to receive up to $7 million from the state. "The money from the state was intended for MOHAI.  The city council clearly understood this," said Garfield.

The physical move is one part, but MOHAI is taking the opportunity to upgrade the museum as well. "Private fundraising will transform the museum into a whole new way of telling Seattle’s history," said Garfield.  The new space has 35,000 square feet in exhibit space, as opposed to 20,000 square feet currently, and there will be more multimedia and interactive exhibits. In addition to the permanent collection, the new space will also house a traveling gallery, with changing exhibits from other museums. For a sneak preview of the new space, check out this video tour.

In the meantime, the visitor experience remains robust at the Montlake location, which will stay open into 2012. MOHAI is dedicated to enriching lives by preserving, sharing and teaching the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the nation.