The completion date for the new Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes building approaches as final touches are made on the building across the street from the current LMC location on Main Street.
Executive director Norm Conard said they started looking into purchasing another building about two years ago, with the plan of using an already-existing, historical structure. But when that plan fell through because of the cost of refurbishing, they instead looked into constructing their own new building.
“The new building will be an ideal situation for the center,” Conard said. “Thanks to Mr. [Lowell] Milken and his investment in Fort Scott and his belief and vision for our center.”
Work began on that building in the months after a ground-breaking ceremony in Sept. 2014. With just flooring and some other projects remaining, Conard said they expect the building to be done in early October.
Project supervisor Bill Draney of the A.L. Huber contractors said the weather this season slowed their project some with frequent rains earlier in the year, but it has since been on task and is nearing completion.
The new building, with about 6,500 square feet compared to the current building of about 2,500, houses a large exhibit area, conference room and office areas. While they have seven to 10 exhibits in the current location, Conard said they will be able to add more in the new building.
Conard said the center will continue to use the current building, but for workshops and training with teachers from around the world during the summer, for student research, archives, storage, overflow from large tour groups and an area to film projects.
While the building will be complete in approximately a month, Conard said it will likely take four to six months to put all the exhibits in place. Tentatively, they hope to hold a grand-opening in May of 2016.
Next door to the new building will be a city park, increasing the aesthetic nature of the downtown area. Conard said he looks forward to seeing how the city will benefit from that and the new Lowell Milken Center.
“We’re excited about the downtown and what that means for not just Fort Scott but for our region, as far as bringing visitors and guests,” Conard said.
The center first opened its doors in 2007, with the goal of helping educate students as well as honoring historical figures whose stories are not commonly known. It has since reached more than one million students, whose projects each include a film, performance, exhibit and website for those unsung heroes they discovered.
The success of the center has recently spread even internationally with the opening of a similar center in Europe.