Houston Museum of Natural Science-Sugar Land to expand with butterfly garden, technology hall

Sugar Land City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Houston Museum of Natural Science-Sugar Land to invest $100,000 into the museum’s addition of a technology hall and outdoor learning center.

The funds, coming from the Sugar Land 4B Corporation fund, would contribute to the $282,000 project that coincides with the museum’s 10-year anniversary. The agreement was approved during the council's June 4 meeting.

“It’s vital for these destination venues to remain up to date and refreshed so they maintain their relevance within their region’s market as well as to continue offering a great asset to our community,” Sugar Land Compliance Manager Catherine Turner said.

With the city’s approval, the funds must be delivered within 60 days of contract execution. The SL4B Corp. will still have $2.3 million in funds remaining after the $100,000 deduction for the project, Turner said.

The lease amendment also states the improvements must be completed by Dec. 1, Turner said.

“The Sugar Land 4B Corporation unanimously approved this in light of the museum’s 10-year anniversary coming up,” District 4 Council Member Carol McCutcheon said. “We were very excited about the opportunity to contribute $100,000 to the hall of technology and the outdoor learning center. As I am a chemical engineer and a Fort Bend Master Gardner and also after working decades in the energy business, I’m personally extremely excited about this as well.”

The renovations will include a salt and geology room with a “Salt Dome Experience” that will send visitors on a simulated elevator ride to the bottom of a salt dome—a dome-shaped structure found in sedimentary rocks where a large salt mass has been forced upward. The structures can form traps for oil or natural gas.

A new chemistry and energy area will include a microscope bar and chemistry demonstration area, Turner said.

The life sciences exhibits will be relocated and an outdoor learning center will be added to include a butterfly-friendly area with a native plant identification system.

“This is the museum’s first request for funding under the destination venue capital project policy,” Turner said. “It will provide an economic benefit to the city by attracting regional visitors due to the new exhibitions. The project provides an overall community benefit and it will give the community access to new opportunities for learning.”

The museum pays an annual rental fee to the city and retains its revenues since it operates as a nonprofit, Turner said.

“This is a longterm investment over time, and it’s time for a little facelift,” Mayor Joe Zimmerman said. “These were 4B dollars that were used out here in the [Sugar Land Town Square] Plaza, and we’ve seen a return on investment in that just by the way people have used it. I think this is an appropriate investment.”
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