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UNC trustees receive update on Morehead Building project

posted Tuesday July 4, 2006

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees received an update on the proposed renovations to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center building Wednesday, July 26, 2006.

University facility planners told the trustees that the renovation and proposed expansion of the building would cost about $35 million. The university plans to seek $4.5 million from the North Carolina General Assembly in 2007 to fund planning and would likely make another request to fund construction, which would not start until 2010 at earliest.

Private funds would still be needed to support Morehead Planetarium and Science Center program development.

“We’re very pleased that this project is moving forward,” said Morehead Director Todd Boyette. “We’re delivering top-notch programs right now. However, this would allow us to do even more for science education in North Carolina than we already are.”

Opened in 1949, the Morehead Building has never had a major renovation. The facility was expanded in the early 1970s with the addition of the Morehead Foundation offices, a Banquet Hall and the Morehead Observatory.

“When it was built in the 1940s, Morehead was one of the truly great public buildings in North Carolina,” said Paul Kapp, the university’s historic preservation officer who is responsible for this project.

“We’re confident that this renovation and expansion will revitalize this grand old building and open up new opportunities for Morehead to serve the state.”

According to Boyette, this project will be more than a cosmetic facelift.

“I envision that the ‘new Morehead’ will feature state-of-the art interactive and multimedia exhibits, learning labs for hands-on science experiences and a digital planetarium,” Boyette said.

Boyette and Morehead’s senior management team are beginning the process of developing an interpretative plan, a term used in the museum field to describe the thematic framework on which visitor experiences will be built.

Development of the interpretative plan would be the precursor to a capital campaign.

“It will be important for people to remember that the state dollars would just go to the building,” said Boyette. “We will still need to raise a substantial amount of money to develop the science center.”

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center served more than 130,000 visitors in 2005-2006 making it the third most-visited building on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus after only the Smith Center and Kenan Stadium.