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Construction Resumes On Broadcast Museum

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After what might be called a very long commercial break, construction has resumed at the planned new home of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Barrier fences are up around the old parking garage at 360 N. State St.

When it's finished, the new building will feature a two-story, glass-and-steel lobby atrium, a café, and a gift shop. It will also include working television and radio studios, a media-equipped education center, and more than 15,000 square feet of exhibition space, according to the museum's Web site.

But there are still some hurdles.

Museum president Bruce DuMont told the Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin that he still needs to raise between $5 million and $6 million to construct all the exhibits he's planning. Also, a $6 million state grant requires that the exterior and mechanical work be finished by April 30, according to the museum's Web site.

For the better part of a decade, the museum has existed only as a Web site. The museum was housed on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., until 2003, when the museum moved out with plans for the grand new building in River North.

But the plan for the new building stalled out after a failed agreement between DuMont and deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich for a state grant that never came.

As DuMont explained on his own Web site, Blagojevich told him in January 2005 that the state had the money to help with the museum, and pledged an $8 million grant. Construction began at the State Street building in June 2005.

But the over the next year, the state grant didn't come, and construction stopped in May 2006, DuMont said on his Web site. A confidential lender offered a $6 million low-interest loan to resume construction, but his identity ended up being revealed to the state, and the state rejected the lender as a partner, DuMont's Web site said.

DuMont says he later found out that the promised grant money had been spent elsewhere, and was told to "shut up" about the issue by then-Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris.

By the end of 2008, around the same time Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges, the museum board voted to sell the half-finished building, DuMont's Web site said.

But the following year, Gov. Pat Quinn came through with a $6 million grant to resume construction, and now crews are working on what will become the first new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) -certified museum in Illinois, the museum Web site said.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications fist opened in 1987 at River City, 800 S. Wells St., and moved to the Cultural Center in 1992.

Among the items in the museum's collection are the original camera used at the 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, which was held at CBS 2's old studios at 630 N. McClurg Ct. Also featured are classic puppets and dummies such as Charlie McCarthy, Garfield Goose and Dirty Dragon, and the costumes and Grand Prize Game from the Bozo Show.

The museum also maintains an archive of historic Chicago radio and television programming, including a collection of local 10 p.m. newscasts dating back to 1987.

For many years, the museum was also famous for its studio where visitors could record a mock TV newscast.

The museum's old space in the Cultural Center is now occupied by the Project Onward art studio for the developmentally disabled.

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