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Duke foundation gives $1 million to plans for York County museum

Tony Almeida, Duke Energy vice president for business relations and economic development, announces Monday that the Duke Energy Foundation is giving $1 million for development of the Museum of Life and the Environment on the Catawba River at Interstate 77 in York County.
Tony Almeida, Duke Energy vice president for business relations and economic development, announces Monday that the Duke Energy Foundation is giving $1 million for development of the Museum of Life and the Environment on the Catawba River at Interstate 77 in York County.

The Duke Energy Foundation will give $1 million to the Culture and Heritage Foundation for the development of the new Museum of Life and the Environment along the Catawba River, company officials announced Monday.

The museum will be built on part of a 400-acre tract off Interstate 77 in Fort Mill. Its purpose will be to connect visitors with their surroundings by explaining the history of the Catawba River and its impact on the community.

"We want to work with the museum to be a part of your great success that lies ahead and to provide something for generations to come that they will cherish and help them remember the roots of the Catawba River," said Tony Almeida, vice president of business relations and economic development for Duke Energy Carolinas.

Construction on the approximately $50 million museum is still a couple of years away. A construction management company is developing plans and a timeline that will more closely nail down the start date.

Duke's donation brings the foundation's fundraising total to about $15.4 million. That money will be used to build the new museum but also for work on other properties such as Hightower Hall at Historic Brattonsville in McConnells and the McCelvey Center in York.

About $65 million is needed to pay for the new museum and for enhancements and repairs at the foundation's other properties.

Kick-start donations?

The Culture and Heritage Foundation suffered a blow last year when the family of Maurice Stans, a longtime supporter of York County museums, backed out of plans to donate up to $10 million for the museum. Family members are negotiating a possible donation; however, no amount has been set, said Van Shields, director of the Culture and Heritage Museums.

The $10 million would have been conditional upon fundraisers rounding up an additional $20 million in three years. The matching gift was supposed to spur donations for the museum.

Sandy Barnes, president of the foundation, said he hopes Duke's donation will help the fundraising campaign start to pick up speed.

"We're hoping this will sort of jump-start it," he said. "When you see somebody as big as Duke Energy take an interest ... it does send a message out to other corporations that we do need to take a look at what they're doing down there."

Foundation members also are counting on a residential and commercial development near the planned museum to bring in a significant amount of money. Kanawha, a 340-acre sustainable development and a partnership with Raleigh, N.C.-based firm Cherokee Investment Partners, is projected to generate about $20 million for the museum project.

Plans for the development and a request to be annexed into Fort Mill Township are expected to be filed within the next few months, foundation spokesman Sig Huitt said. Several factors, including a downturn in the housing market, have put those plans months behind schedule.

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