Mulva Cultural Center pitched as anchor of De Pere's cultural district

The Mulva Cultural Center is proposed for the corner of Broadway and Lewis Street in downtown De Pere. (Photo credit: WLUK)

DE PERE (WLUK) -- Just like Lambeau Field, the Weidner Center, Meyer Theater and the like help make Brown County the area's number one tourism county, De Pere believes it could have something to add to the numbers.

The proposed Mulva Cultural Center is being used as the centerpiece in the city’s efforts to come up with a master plan for its downtown cultural district.

The center would be a $7 million gift from Jim and Miriam Mulva, who live part time in De Pere. The location being proposed is at the corner of South Broadway and Lewis Street.

De Pere residents first heard of the plan two and a half years ago, but they haven't heard much since. That’s the reason many residents showed up to the Broadway Theatre Monday evening for an open house on the master plan.

“I'm really keen on the history of this city and how we can play upon that to get more people to come here,” said Fred Wessel of De Pere.

The open house was one event in a three-day period dedicated to developing the cultural district master plan. The city is using the cultural center as its anchor.

“You go to Lambeau Field, you might go to the Shrine, and you might come to De Pere to see the Mulva Cultural Center," said Kim Flom, De Pere's Economic Development Director. "I think a lot of that has to do with caliber of exhibits that are being planned. These are national-level exhibits that you normally would only see in Minneapolis, Chicago, or Milwaukee.”

The Mulvas plan to set up an endowment to pay for the center's first 10 years of operation, according to Julie Van Straten, one of the cultural center's board members. She says the bottom level will have an auditorium with performing space. The second floor will be for the traveling museum exhibits. The third floor will include gathering space, as will the building's roof.

“In the cultural realm of things, something like this is a once in a generation opportunity,” said Tom Rogers, a landscape architect for SmithGroupJJR, a consultant for De Pere’s cultural district master plan.

The city is using the opportunity to find out what else residents would like to see in the area.

“They're interested in growing downtown De Pere, as long as that growth preserves the character of downtown De Pere, that is the nut we have to crack with this plan,” said Flom.

The city hopes to have an official master plan document to its city council in the next month. They hope the cultural center plans will be presented soon after that.

The Mulvas, both De Pere natives. have already left their mark across the Fox River, all over the St Norbert College campus. Their name is on the school's library, fitness center, and science building.

Miriam Mulva is a St. Norbert graduate, class of '69.

James Mulva is retired as president and CEO of the oil company ConocoPhillips.

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