The Mulva Cultural Center in De Pere is entering a new phase of construction, with its footings poured and a tower crane coming to the site in January
It’ll be the first complex of its kind in northeast Wisconsin, said CEO Mike Van Asten. It’s rare for national exhibitions to come to Wisconsin cities other than Milwaukee and Madison, he said.
“There’s a large population in the Fox River Valley up here in northeast Wisconsin, and it’ll be an opportunity for people living in the northern half of the state to experience some of the things that previously they would have had to go to Milwaukee or Chicago or maybe Minneapolis for,” Van Asten said
The $95 million facility will host a dozen or more traveling exhibitions each year, and it will feature a movie theater, sculpture gardens, classrooms and a restaurant.
“So indoor and outdoor, many, many things for people of all ages,” Van Asten said.
He plans to hire about 60 people to operate the center, and the facility is expected to have other impacts on the local economy.
“Certainly, being built in downtown De Pere, right on Broadway, the impact to gift stores, restaurants and other retail facilities within walking distance of the Mulva Cultural Center will be substantial,” he said.
Van Asten has worked with organizations like the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah and the Milwaukee Public Museum. The Mulva Cultural Center is special because it’s dedicated to all different types of exhibitions, he said.
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“The main exhibition hall is 12,000 square feet,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of exhibitions in this country are under 5,000 square feet, so this is going to allow us to bring pretty much almost any exhibition that would be offered in the United States, and the majority of the time, we’ll be having two or even three exhibits going on at one time.”
COVID-19 slowed down the project’s design phase, Van Asten said. A groundbreaking was held in August, and the building is set to be completed by 2023. It’s ahead of schedule due to a mild fall, he said.
He’s already received requests for tours of the building, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The famed architecture firm is behind One World Trade Center in New York, Willis Tower in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The building is named after its benefactors Jim and Miriam Mulva, De Pere natives who’ve contributed other projects in the area, including the Mulva Library at St. Norbert College in De Pere. Jim is a retired naval officer and former CEO of Phillips Petroleum Company and ConocoPhillips.