The Gregg Museum of Art & Design expansion project moved into its next phase Tuesday after a yearslong effort to raise millions of dollars in private funding.
Using shovels painted in bright colors by N.C. State University students, officials participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking in front of a crowd of hundreds to mark the start of construction.
The university museum will have a new home in the former chancellor’s residence on Hillsborough Street near the Memorial Belltower. The historic house will be renovated, and a new gallery space of 15,000 feet will be added to help accommodate the museum’s collection of more than 30,000 objects.
N.C. State had pledged not to begin construction until the $9.8 million project was fully funded, including a $3.9 million campaign for private funding from individuals, corporations and foundations.
Construction is expected to take 18 months. The plan also includes new parking and classroom spaces.
Roger Manley, director of the museum, said the expansion adds not just more space but greater visibility. For years, the museum was tucked into the Talley Student Center, making it tough for visitors to find it and to park.
The expansion also will create room for a sculpture garden and events, such as weddings or outdoor film screenings, Manley said.
He expects the museum will work with its neighbors – Pullen Park, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and Theatre in the Park – to provide programming for the campus and community.
“We’re poised to become a real tourist attraction,” he said.
The renovations to the residence, such as new lighting and shelving, will be minor and designed to preserve the building’s historic character. The second floor will become office space for the museum.
The project kicked off in 2010 when university officials voted to move the Gregg Museum to the chancellor’s residence. The museum has been without a permanent home since the spring of 2013 because of renovations at the student center.
The fundraising campaign for the museum got its last major boost in February, when the Wake County Board of Commissioners awarded $650,000 to the project from hotel and restaurant tax revenue.
“That went a very, very long way to get us to the end,” said Christina Menges, development director for ARTS NC STATE.
The university has estimated the county will recoup its investment in two years because of additional hotel and restaurant business.
Philipp Lindemann, 20, a political science major at N.C. State who is active in the university’s arts programs, said he’s thrilled to see the Gregg make the move to a new home.
“It was this hidden gem we had in the student center,” he said. “I’d say this construction is going to be huge for its visibility.”