Mulva Cultural Center plans unveiled
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – A striking glass landmark with cascading stairways and a three-story atrium, a building facing all directions so that people visiting De Pere from any direction on the roundabout or the bridge can see what a unique community the city is.
That’s Miriam and Jim Mulva’s vision for the proposed Mulva Cultural Center.
“We’ve always felt that De Pere is kind of the jewel of the Fox River,” De Pere native Miriam Mulva said.
The $50 million Mulva Cultural Center will be a three-story, 60,000-square-foot attraction that will bring world-class exhibits and programs to the downtown eastside De Pere riverfront.
“We’re here on this earth for each other,” she said, explaining why she and her husband Jim feel so strongly about their gift to the community.
The Mulvas, both De Pere natives and the couple behind the cultural center, held a news conference Wednesday, May 1, to unveil the plans for what will be a largely glass building that will feature exhibit and performance spaces, including an auditorium, three-story atrium, classrooms, an outdoor terrace, as well as a café and a public plaza honoring veterans.
Indoor and outdoor observation decks will enable guests to take in views of the Fox River and the “interior St. Norbert College skyline,” said Jim Mulva.
The De Pere Cultural Foundation and Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) of Chicago to design the Mulva Cultural Center.
SOM designed the Main Public Library at Long Beach, California, led the renovation of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and the master planning for Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, along with many other cultural projects around the world.
Scott Duncan, design partner with SOM, called the Mulva Cultural Center a “a destination and cultural nexus” for De Pere.
“Our design for the Mulva Cultural Center creates a hub for the region’s creative community, bringing world-class cultural events and exhibitions to De Pere,” Duncan said. “We put a lot of thought into the (view from the) roundabout, so the building has no front and no back; it’s a building that’s really facing all directions.”
The cultural center will host traveling exhibitions from major institutions from around the world, hold diverse cultural programming, educational opportunities for people of all ages and more.
Some examples they gave included exhibits of the 101 greatest things ever invented, Titanic artifacts, dinosaurs, art, history, documentation and social things to “grow and develop people of all ages in the community,” Jim Mulva said.
“We want this to be for everybody – young, old, fat and thin,” Miriam said.
In late 2015, the De Pere Common Council approved the Mulvas’ preliminary concept for a cultural center in downtown De Pere, and since then, plans have grown to enhancing the 1 1/2-acre grounds of the Mulva Cultural Center site to serve as a connecting point to the riverfront and the historic downtown district.
The city of De Pere donated the site south of the Claude Allouez bridge along along South Broadway between Wisconsin and Lewis streets.
Construction and operations are to be funded through personal donations from the Mulvas or through grants from the Mulva Family Foundation and managed by the De Pere Cultural Foundation.
They hope to have designs completed by the end of this year before presenting them to the city for review early in 2020.
If all goes as planned, crews will break ground later next year, with opening slated for sometime in 2022.