Hormel announces move of Spam Museum in Austin
Published 9:50 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014
By Trey Mewes, Austin Daily Herald
AUSTIN — It’s official: The Spam Museum is moving.
Hormel Foods Corp. officials announced Tuesday that Austin’s biggest tourism attraction will move to downtown Austin and reopen in spring 2016.
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Hormel will build a new museum at North Main Street between Second and Fourth avenues, at the downtown fire site as well as the adjacent Plaza Bar/Ciola’s building.
“We believe that the downtown of Austin is something that can truly set Austin apart,” Hormel Foods CEO and President Jeff Ettinger said during a public unveiling of the project Tuesday.
Community advocates and Vision 2020 volunteers had pushed for the Spam Museum to move into the Austin Utilities downtown power plant in 2012 as part of Vision 2020’s Utilities Building Committee plans.
Vision 2020’s Destination Downtown committee approached Hormel officials last fall about using the fire site formerly owned by the Austin Port Authority as a new location for the Spam Museum. Since, then, Hormel has worked with several organizations including the city of Austin to move existing businesses out of the Ciola’s building and into other spaces.
City leaders lauded the project during the unveiling Tuesday as the Spam Museum regularly draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, which could have a large economic impact for downtown businesses.
“It’s about to get a whole lot better around here,” Vision 2020 director of Vision Creation Laura Helle said.
No plans are set for the new building, though Ettinger said Hormel is working to get a final design ready for the new building. The new building could be about 13,500 square feet, according to Ettinger, which is slightly less than the 16,500 square feet at the museum’s current location. Several of the museum’s exhibits — including the museum’s historical exhibits — will likely go into the new location, along with several new exhibits. Hormel will also work with the city of Austin to bring more parking to the downtown area rather than build one giant parking lot near the new museum.
Hormel will likely begin construction late this year or the beginning of next year, with a groundbreaking set in November or December.
At least part of the old museum could be turned into office space for Hormel’s Corporate South office, though Ettinger said no plans for the old museum are yet in place. Ettinger said the company has added 200 corporate jobs and 200 plant jobs in the area since 2005.
“Hopefully we’ll continue that momentum and utilize that space,” he said.
Hormel’s corporate office renovations could take place this fall and early next spring, and Hormel spokespeople say the Spam Museum may close during the museum’s offseason later this year as part of the move.
If all goes well, the new Spam Museum will open in the spring of 2016 in time for Hormel’s 125th anniversary. Yet Hormel officials, city leaders and area volunteers hope the museum announcement will help Vision 2020 accomplish other goals as well.
“We do hope that this announcement will be a catalyst to some of the other Vision 2020 projects as well,” Ettinger said. “We also hope that particularly this project is a catalyst to the downtown.”