Fayette County

Explorium signs five-year lease to stay in downtown Lexington's Victorian Square

The Explorium, formerly called the Lexington Children's Museum, at Victorian Square, Jan. 9, 2013.
The Explorium, formerly called the Lexington Children's Museum, at Victorian Square, Jan. 9, 2013. Herald-Leader

The Explorium of Lexington children's museum has signed a long-term release to remain in its longtime home in Victorian Square.

The lease is for five years, with the option to renew for another five years, said Tim Davis, the Explorium board chairman.

"We are delighted that we are staying put," executive director Lee Ellen Martin said. This week, with Fayette County public schools on spring break, attendance has been "amazing," Martin said. "We had almost 600 people in the museum on Tuesday."

Museum offices might be shifted elsewhere in Victorian Square, but otherwise the museum will remain in the space it has occupied for 22 years, Davis said.

Whether the Explorium would go or stay became an issue earlier this year when Dudley Webb, chairman of The Webb Cos., a new owner of Victorian Square, said the Explorium's former executive director had refused for five years to sign a lease.

Webb said his company had sought new tenants for the space because he didn't think the museum wanted to stay as a tenant.

Martin, the Explorium's new executive director, responded that the museum wanted to stay in Victorian Square and would work with the new owners to make that happen.

In August, The Webb Cos. teamed with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc. of Cincinnati and paid $1.7 million for the block of restored 19th-century buildings across from Rupp Arena.

When the sale was announced, the new owners said they planned to spend as much as $10 million to remodel parts of Victorian Square, with approximately 226,000 square feet of space, turning it into a downtown destination with restaurants, entertainment and retail.

When the lease was announced Wednesday, Davis said he could not say what the Explorium will pay in rent, because the rent was included in a confidentiality clause in the lease. The Explorium has been paying $6.11 per square foot.

Mark Fallon, vice president of lease for Jeffrey Anderson, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the Explorium "fits perfectly with our redevelopment of the Square's strategy of creating a great destination for ... people of all ages."

Last week, Saul Good Restaurant and Pub announced that it would open a restaurant in Victorian Square, at North Broadway and West Short Street.

Davis said he thought there would be "some great overlap" between the Explorium and Saul Good that would be beneficial to both establishments.

The Explorium is in discussion with its next-door neighbor, Lexington Children's Theatre, to create an opportunity for school groups to come to the Explorium in the morning, then go to the theater in the afternoon, Martin said. That offering will start in the fall.