Wexners: The Smithsonian and American Museum of Natural History may come to the Scioto Peninsula

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

For Columbus Monthly's January cover story about the most powerful people in Columbus, Les and Abigail Wexner shared new details about their latest civic passion, the redevelopment of the Scioto Peninsula. The husband-and-wife philanthropists told the magazine in an exclusive interview that the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History may open satellite institutions in East Franklinton across the Scioto River from Downtown Columbus. Les Wexner said Columbus leaders are in the "final stages" of securing a deal with the American Museum of Natural History, while negotiations with the Smithsonian are in a more preliminary but still promising stage.

The two institutions would join COSI and the new Ohio Veterans and Memorial Museum on the Scioto Peninsula, creating a new cultural district that Les Wexner said could have a huge impact on the city. "It's obvious to me people will come from all over the state," said Wexner, who along with his wife has pledged $25 million to the construction of the new Vets, which is scheduled to open in 2017. "Schools will come here. Families will come here."

The Smithsonian Institution, based in Washington, D.C., is the world's largest museum and research complex. It consists of 19 museums and galleries, nine research facilities, the National Zoological Park and affiliations with more than 200 other organizations, including the Ohio History Connection in Columbus. Meanwhile, the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan's Upper West Side is one of the largest and most visited musuems in the world, famous for its 94-foot-long fiberglass model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling. Les Wexner said co-locating satellites of the two renowned institutions on the Scioto Peninsula "just changes the character of the community."

The L brands founder has been thinking about the redevelopment of the Scioto Peninsula for about 40 years. Learn more about his influence on Columbus and his civic partnership with his wife, Abigail, in the January issue of Columbus Monthly.