By Katy Savage
Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum is moving from Center Street in Rutland to Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center on Merchants Row, tripling the size of the museum to 9,000 square feet and expanding programming.
“We’ve been in the building we’re currently in for seven years,” Wonderfeet Executive Director Danielle Munroe said. “We truly use every inch of the space we’ve got. To a large extent, the programming we offer now has been limited by our size. We don’t have enough room to be able to have a school field trip here at the same time the museum is open to the public.”
GMP’s Energy Innovation Center was previously a community space used for colleges, Rutland organizations and school groups, while Wonderfeet used the upstairs of the innovation center for camps and programs.
Munroe said Green Mountain Power offered Wonderfeet the opportunity to lease the space for $1 for the next 10 years with an option to extend the lease for $1 for 10 years after that.
“It’s really much more than us moving into the space,” Munroe said. “It’s a partnership with Green Mountain Power. They’re continuing the investment they have made in downtown.”
The move will start in early 2023. Munroe said Wonderfeet will have a dedicated classroom for school trips as well as a conference room for staff trainings so the museum can be open while school groups are visiting. There will also be six new exhibits in the new space, including a Cassella recycling truck, a construction site that showcases local builders and a mini version of the gazebo on Main Street in Rutland. Munroe wants to add an upstairs roof deck with large-scale art pieces.
“It’s going to give us a lot more options,” Munroe said.
Wonderfeet started in 2010 and now attracts up to 20,000 people a year. In 2019, people from 21 different states visited the museum. Munroe is hoping to increase attendance to about 25,000 a year in the new space.
“This expansion is an important part of the downtown’s growth,” Rutland Mayor David Allaire said in a press release. “Wonderfeet will offer attractions and educational opportunities, allowing more people to see why downtown Rutland has so much to offer from shopping, to meals, to a top-notch kids’ museum.”
The building on Center Street is currently owned by the Housing Trust of Rutland County, which will likely find a new tenant when Wonderfeet moves.
“It’s been a dream location for us, which is part of the reason we’re excited we’re only going around the corner,” Munroe said.
Munroe said the options to expand in downtown Rutland are limited. “The whole idea of Wonderfeet to begin with was to be an economic and tourism driver,” Munroe said. “We want to stay in Rutland but there’s only so many options.”
Wonderfeet is accessible to everyone with affordable admissions and services.
“Magic happens as soon as my little one walks through the door at Wonderfeet,” said Heather Dazzi of Rutland City in a press release. “You can see the sparkle in her eyes as she moves from one activity to the next, makes new friends and uses her imagination. Wonderfeet has become an integral part of our community — it’s so much more than a local business to us, it feels like home, and we are so excited for the new space and all the new opportunities to spark more joy and creativity.”
Kristin Carlson, GMP’s vice president of strategy and external relations said the goal of the innovation center is to engage the community.
“GMP is committed to contributing to the vibrancy of downtown Rutland and the community, and this announcement shows a long-term commitment to the health, wellbeing, and development of Vermont’s youth, who are critical to the future,” said GMP President and CEO Mari McClure in a press release.