When the Cincinnati Children's Museum reopens next week, Union Terminal visitors are going to see a lot of changes, starting with the familiar orange wall at the bottom of the first escalator. It's not there anymore.
Steve Swisher with Turner Construction says the whole mezzanine level is being opened up for future design. "The museum spaces were separated north and south, Cincinnati History versus Natural History and Science," he explains. "There was a dividing wall that ran right through the middle of that. That's all been removed and reconfigured. It allows for some cross-pollination between spaces now." He says that will lead to a better visitor experience.
The entire building has been undergoing renovations since the summer of 2016. Museum and construction officials led a tour Thursday morning to mark the final months. The Children's Museum was expected to stay open during the more than two-year-long project, but was closed last November. It reopens May 4, while the rest of the museum construction continues.
In addition to the new open spaces that will be visible, Swisher says there's new lighting, new flooring, and new plumbing in the entire structure. "There's such a substantial amount of money being spent on the building to save the facility, and so much of that is going behind the scenes to really improve the infrastructure and to improve its longevity. But you also have to make some changes that are visual, and this is one of those significant changes that also allows for better programming."
In the rotunda, the cleaning and refreshing of the murals is finished. Swisher says a pioneer woman holding a baby really seems to pop for some visitors. "Some people have walked through here and when they look at the mural they didn't realize she had a shawl on. Now that it's been cleaned up (and) restored, you can really see the detail of that. It doesn't blend in as much."
The $224 million renovation and rehabilitation project is paid for through historic tax credits and a five-year quarter-cent Hamilton County sales tax. That tax expires in 2020.