Clayton Foundation still exploring possible downtown Knoxville science museum

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The Clayton Foundation is still exploring a plan to build a science museum in downtown Knoxville where at the Knoxville Police Department sits today, but it is far from a done deal.

The city and the foundation have signed a development agreement, but it doesn’t guarantee a museum gets built. It’s a sign the foundation is still interested and it allows them to continue exploring the site.

The city of Knoxville agreed to eventually give the land over if developers turn in plans to the city by the end of the year and they’re approved. Right now, it’s unclear how much of the site developers would need and if the main safety building used today would stand in the way of construction.

Businessman and philanthropist Jim Clayton plans to build this as a gift to the region. The concept is billed as an educational science and discovery center with interactive exhibits, group programs, classrooms and traveling exhibits.

The plans call for at least a two-story building with between 80,000-200,000 square feet of space. It’s expected to cost more than $100 million.

The city says the police department will move out of the site either when their new headquarters at the former physician’s regional site is complete or two years from the date of closing on the land.

It would then be up to the developer to demolish the safety building. The foundation must complete environmental studies, put together a proposal and get all the required permits before the city signs off on any development plans.

The city will also work with developers on things like parking by agreeing to share some of the space in public garages. There is also a good faith agreement between the two parties to share costs for public improvements like landscaped walkways, outdoor play areas and pavilions.

The foundation can back out at any time and the city can take the land back if the developers wait more than a year to start building after closing.

The city has also laid out a few guidelines for a new museum. If it’s built on the KPD site the agreement says it should be run by an independent board with one of its member appointed by the mayor.

The museum must be open a certain amount of time each day. The city also mandated the museum’s programs should include access to low-income public school students in Knoxville.

If developers decide they want the site and their plans are approved, the city will then sign over the space to make it happen.

Deputy Mayor David Brace said he sees it as one more way to bring people to the city and to create more to do for the people who live here.

The agreement says they expect the museum to attract up to one million visitors each year. The foundation also expected to endow the museum with $50 million dollars.

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