CMOM Gets Ready to Move After Purchase of New UWS Building

The Children's Museum of Manhattan's new home, 361 Central Park West. Photo by Emily Munro/CMOM
The Children's Museum of Manhattan's new home, 361 Central Park West. Photo by Emily Munro/CMOM

The Children's Museum of Manhattan has long made up for its small footprint the way hearty city parents do: by creatively maximizing every available square foot of space, and keeping things fresh with an ever-changing variety of exhibits that engage the public in its mission to help "children and families thrive at home, at school, and in the community."

But, as any parent pining for an extra bedroom can attest, a bit more space is always welcome in this jam-packed city, and the little kid museum will soon have a great big new home of its own. CMOM completed the $45 million purchase of the former Church of Christ, Scientist, on West 96th Street and Central Park West on December 22.

The Museum won't make the move to the landmarked building until late 2021, continuing to present its groundbreaking programming in its current location at 212 West 83rd Street until that time.

The move will, however, nearly double the museum's footprint. Currently, the museum has about 38,000-square-feet of exhibition space spread over five floors. Renovations on the interior of the building at 361 Central Park West will result in about 70,000-square-feet of kid-centric fun, ranging from the basement all the way up to the historic church's spire.

The building, erected between 1899 and 1903 was designed by architects Carrère & Hastings, who also designed the main branch of the NYPL during the same time period, has landmark status on its exterior, so any renovations to the facade of the Beaux-Arts building would require approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which, along with neighborhood advocacy groups, balked at a prior developer's plans to turn the building into a luxury condo development.

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Go on a fun-filled adventure with Dora and Diego in the current space. 

Though the renovations of the building are in the very early planning stages—an architect hasn't even been named—the museum expects to spend upward of $75 million more to bring the project to fruition. A modest $5.5 million has been pledged by the city, while Nickelodeon, longtime sponsor of the Dora and Diego exhibit at its current home, has made an undiscolsed contriubtion. A capital campaign is underway to raise more money.

"CMOM is currently at capacity at our 83rd Street location and we had been actively looking to move to a bigger home," said Andrew S. Ackerman, CMOM's executive director in a statement on the CMOM website. "The new building will allow us to serve even more children and families across the City. We look forward to discussing our vision with our members and the greater community in more detail in the coming weeks, as we begin the formal planning and design process to reactivate the building into a world-class children’s museum."

Once completed, the museum expects to see its attendance soar, too, from the current 350,000 visitors annually to 750,000 in the new digs. The addition of CMOM on Central Park West also gives the Upper West Side a stretch of cultural institutions creating a mini-Museum Mile of sorts, with CMOM, the American Museum of Natural History and the New-York Historical Society lined up within a 20-block stretch overlooking Central Park's west side.

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The popular exhibit Hello From Japan is returning to CMOM in February.

For now, little New Yorkers and their caregivers can continue to enjoy all the current location has to offer, including the reopening of its popular Hello from Japan exhibit in February with all-new props and programming, including a Manga Maker Space, and with varied programming from Kawaii-inspired dress-up to sushi-making and comic-book-design classes. Its Let's Dance exhibit has also been extended through year's end.

The Children's Museum of Manhattan is currently located at 212 West 83rd Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. It's open daily except for Mondays, and remains open most school holidays.

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