A Minor Revision With Major Implications

The National Museum of American Jewish History's plan to construct a prominent new building on Independence Mall – a symbolic space that proponents say demonstrates just how the Declaration of Independence and Constitution have benefited a religious and ethnic minority – has undergone a slight revision.

Rather than build on their current Fifth Street site between Market and Arch streets, as originally planned, administrators said they're going to set up shop across the street at a site now occupied by the KYW-Channel 3 building, at the southeast corner of Fifth and Market streets.

According to museum executive director and CEO Gwen Goodman, the move will place the institution in a more prominent location, closer to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. "All you have to do is stand on that corner and see how much foot traffic there is," she said.

Ron Rubin, a museum board member, seconded that notion.

"This is the premier museum site in Philadelphia," he said in a press release. "We were excited when we learned that this property was available. When an opportunity like this comes along, you must take advantage."

Goodman said the change in plans pushes back the projected opening date of the rebuilt museum by at least a year: Planners must wait until KYW vacates the building in 2007 in order to demolish the existing structure. She said she could not disclose the price tag of the KYW building because the museum did not technically own it yet.

The lead architect, James Polshek, is redesigning blueprints for the new building, since this site will allow two floors of permanent exhibition space to accomplish what four would at the current plot of land.

So far, museum officials said they have raised $70 million of the $120 million needed to build the structure and to create an endowment. That total includes major gifts from philanthropists Sydney Kimmel, Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider and, most recently, a $5 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Dr. Alexander and Lorraine Dell.

The museum plans to name a multipurpose venue on the site the Dell Theater in honor of the contributions of the above individuals.



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