Museum Center renovations on schedule and budget, spokesperson says

$212M renovation set to last through fall 2018
Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 20, 2017

CINCINNATI -- The Museum Center at Union Terminal's $212 million renovation project is on schedule and budget, a Museum Center spokesperson said.

Last spring, Museum Center officials began working with GBBN Architects, Turner Construction and John G. Waite Associates to gain a better understanding of the conditions they might encounter as they begin to peel back the layers and stabilize the structure for repairs.

But it's impossible to anticipate every scenario with a project of this size, Museum Center spokesman Cody Hefner said.

“But we did extensive probing and analysis in the year before construction began, and even before that through the Cultural Facilities Task Force, to understand exactly what we were getting into when we began opening walls and exposing steel," Hefner said.

Hefner said careful planning has helped the project move smoothly.

“So far, we have been well prepared for what we’ve found,” Hefner said. “The scope of the project was thoroughly defined at the outset, and we haven’t strayed from that, which has helped us remain on schedule and on budget.”

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Union Terminal was built between 1929 and 1933. Outdated construction techniques, as well as the series of modifications made in the decades since, have resulted in significant water damage, bulging, cracking and rust on the building’s structural steel.

Now, small crews of skilled workers have begun tackling the project in earnest, with immediate tasks that include:

- Removing the historic fountain and front plaza to install waterproofing at the sub-layer.

- Removing limestone blocks from pillars supporting the iconic clock, to clean and treat the steel supports underneath.

- Replacing nine rooftop air-handling units with updated models designed to cool the space more efficiently.

- Framing a new classroom space on the lower level inside the Cincinnati History Museum, allowing for expanded space for interactive programming.

- Pouring a 140-cubic-yard concrete slab in an underused space that shares a wall with the Museum of Natural History & Science, to be used for exhibits or collections.

Throughout the renovation project, the Duke Energy Children’s Museum and special exhibition gallery will remain open, but the Museum of Natural History & Science, Cincinnati History Museum and Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX will be closed.

The Museum Center’s “Vikings: Beyond the Legend” exhibit is in its final weeks, with “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” scheduled to open May 25.

“The restoration project has understandably had an impact on business, but attendance remains strong," Hefner said. “The temporary lobby is a great space and is working out really well. It’s hard to compete with the grandeur of the Rotunda and the mosaics, but for safety and from a guest-experience perspective, the temporary lobby is necessary.”

In an effort to activate the temporary lobby as more than just a waiting entrance, the Museum Center has added video projectors and will soon add storytelling display cases. The goal is to teach visitors about the building’s past and offer a glimpse of how the restoration will enhance the iconic museum’s presence in Cincinnati for future generations.

Additionally, there will be a station where guests can use virtual-reality technology to compare what they see through the lobby’s viewing window with “views” of the building’s structural steel.