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Editorial: Keeping Children’s Museum at Navy Pier a fine plan

Chicago artist Megan Hovany puts finishing touches cardboard mural thgreest visitors 'Unboxed: Adventures Cardboard' Chicago Children's Museum.  |

Chicago artist Megan Hovany puts the finishing touches on the cardboard mural that greest visitors to "Unboxed: Adventures in Cardboard" at the Chicago Children's Museum. | Chicago Children's Museum photo

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Updated: December 2, 2012 2:08PM

Here’s an idea for a nifty exhibit when the Chicago Children’s Museum expands: How to pick the ideal location for a children’s museum.

Fror our vantage point, that’s exactly what the 30-year-old museum did this week after a long search for a new home that included a possible move to Grant Park as well as dozens of other sites suggested by well-meaning outsiders.

Grant Park, intended to remain “forever open, clear and free,” is a city lakefront jewel, and we fought hard to keep former Mayor Richard M. Daley and others from moving the museum there from Navy Pier, a plan the City Council OKd in 2008.

Instead, amid fund-raising hurt by the recession, the museum has given up the fight and has agreed to remain at Navy Pier for up to 90 years.

It is good news for the Pier, which needs such quality anchor tenants — and fewer cheap jewelry stalls. And it’s good news for the Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park, where new plans, more appropriate to the spirit of “open, clear and free,” are afoot.

As part of a new 90-year agreement — a 15-year initial lease with five more 15-year options — the museum will grow from 57,000 square feet to 84,000 square feet at Navy Pier, where it has entertained and educated youngsters since 1995.

There is a twist: The deal includes a $10 million “tenant improvement allowance,” and the museum will continue to pay $1 a year rent and maintenance fees, sources said.

But the museum is the second-most visited children’s museum in the country, and it helps to make the Pier the state’s No. 1 tourist destination.

That’s success worth nurturing.

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