Great River Children's Museum gets $7M from state, targets 2024 opening

A children’s museum in St. Cloud has been in the works since 2012.

Great River Children's Museum
Great River Children's Museum along Seventh Avenue in St. Cloud on Friday, May 19, 2023.
Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa / St. Cloud LIVE

ST. CLOUD — The Minnesota State Legislature approved an all-cash bonding bill on Monday, May 22, which includes a $7 million award to the Great River Children’s Museum for the construction phase of its project.

The funding will allow the children's museum to begin construction and set a target grand opening date of late 2024, according to a news release.

Cassie Miles
Great River Children's Museum Executive Director, Cassie Miles, standing in front of their location on 111 Seventh Avenue S, St. Cloud on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa / St. Cloud LIVE

“We couldn’t be more excited and grateful for this additional funding,” Cassie Miles, Great River Children's Museum executive director, said in the release. “Local families and organizations have stepped up to make their support known, pledging significant dollars to keep this project moving forward.”

A children’s museum in St. Cloud has been in the works since 2012. Organizers hope the museum will be an entertainment option for families and revitalize downtown St. Cloud and create more jobs.
The current state of the children’s museum, at 111 Seventh Ave. S. in St. Cloud, is far from its goals. The interior is dark and the carpet has been removed. The only new additions so far are signs from the children’s museum indicating what each section will be once construction is complete, as well as some construction material.

According to the Great River Children’s Museum’s website, community leaders which included family and child experts met in 2012 to discuss the idea for a location in the area and the need. As of 2023, the nearest location to a children’s museum from St. Cloud is in Hutchinson, which is an hour away by car.


Cassie Miles
Great River Children's Museum Exectuvie Director, Cassie Miles, showing floor plans for the children's museum on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa / Forum News Service

Since 2012, they’ve joined the Association of Children’s Museums, started collaborating with CentraCare Health System, created a museum planning team, completed the branding process with Gearbox Functional Creative, received grants, secured traveling exhibits and achieved other milestones.

Support for the museum

Since 2019, Great River Children’s Museum has raised more than $10 million in pledge support and one-time donations from central Minnesota family-owned businesses and individuals.

According to Miles, the children’s museum and the city of St. Cloud are working on the final details of an agreement that would allow the museum to expand its outdoor exhibit space into a portion of the city-owned parking lot in exchange for public access to the walkway that will be created as part of their main entrance.

Former Liberty Bank
Great River Children’s Museum Executive Director, Cassie Miles, demonstrating the still-working bank vacuum tubes from when the building was owned by Liberty Bank on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa / St. Cloud LIVE

An early major donation came to the museum in the form of the property it currently occupies in December 2018. The property used to be owned by Liberty Bank. The bank donated its old building to the children’s museum and at the time of the donation, the property was worth almost $1.5 million, according to the St. Cloud City Assessor’s Office. As of 2023, the property is worth over $2 million.

What was done and what is needed

The construction and architecture of the project so far have been handled by GLT Architects from St. Cloud and BCI Construction from Sauk Rapids. The exhibit design and fabrication have been managed by Split Rock Studios from Brooklyn Park, Haizlip Studio from Memphis, Tennessee, and Boss Display from Columbus, Ohio.

Other tasks that need to be completed before the grand opening include planning and piloting programs, field trips, camps and stocking the museum.

Great River Children’s Museum will also need to hire and train staff. Miles said that once the museum is open, it will need 11-13 full-time staff and 20-25 part-time staff.

Cassie Miles
Great River Children's Museum Executive director, Cassie Miles, in downtown St. Cloud Starbucks on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa / Forum News Service

Miles said the museum is seeking an additional $2 million in philanthropic gifts to hire and train staff, build additional programming and start an endowment to further enhance access initiatives.


Miles explained that there won’t be a cap on how much they will raise for the purpose of an endowment fund to provide more access to children and their caring adults.

'This is going to be a huge gem'

“It’s a resource for families; it’s going to drive tourism and travel to the downtown area; it’s going to support arts and culture; it’s going to support family engagement,” Miles said.

“This is going to be a huge gem,” Mayor Dave Kleis said in his State of the City address on April 18. “This is what is going to be another channel, another spark, to downtown.”

People can donate by sending checks or cash to their address or by visiting their website.

Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa is a reporter for St. Cloud Live, and welcomes your story ideas and suggestions at
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