Chicago Children’s Museum

Museum Renovation
Chicago, IL
Project Facts

Krueck + Sexton
Buro Happold
Thornton Tomasetti
Turner Construction

Full Case Study:

The renovation of Chicago Children’s Museum transformed its visitor experience and increased its visibility. As strategic consultant and project manager, Ascent helped the museum focus and guide the project’s scope and development.  

Client Background

Chicago Children’s Museum is located on Chicago’s Navy Pier and is among the most visited children’s museums in the United States. The museum has been located on the Pier as an anchor tenant since the 1990s and is one of Chicago’s top cultural attractions, serving more than 400,000 visitors annually both on site and through programming in communities throughout Chicago. The mission of Chicago Children’s Museum is to improve children’s lives by creating a community where play and learning connect.

About the Project

As Navy Pier neared its 2016 centennial, it began plans to update and improve the entire Pier to keep it relevant as one of Chicago’s top attractions. As part of the improvements, Navy Pier made ground level space available for a new museum Welcome Center and replaced an existing interior wall to the museum with glass, improving access and visibility to the museum.

In response to the Pier’s plans, which revealed more of the interior of the museum and expanded its footprint on the Pier, Chicago Children’s Museum developed complementary plans. Its 15,000 SF renovation creates a more streamlined visitor experience by refreshing exhibit spaces, creating better visual connections and flow between spaces, and improving entry access from the Pier.

The $8.5M renovation creates new admissions, retail and group entry opportunities. It also provides new exhibit space, classrooms and a 37 feet high, interactive climbing sculpture that physically connects Navy Pier’s Family Pavilion with museum space.


Chicago Children’s Museum was faced with many possible ways they could align their improvements with those taking place at Navy Pier. With minimal in-house capacity for managing a major capital project, the museum needed advice on how to develop a focused scope of work to meet its goals. It required proven project management expertise to assure its largest expansion would make the best use of its resources.

How Does Ascent Help?

As a strategic advisor, Ascent helped the museum plan and define an aspirational yet achievable scope for the project that best supported their mission. As the project manager, Ascent provided project planning in line with anticipated fundraising and cash flow, budget development and tracking, stakeholder management, lease amendment review, assembly of project team, and management of design and construction.


The museum is easier to navigate for the thousands of children, caregivers and educators who come to the museum to play, explore, engage, and learn. It functions and flows better for staff and guests. Its streamlined access and open and transparent design highlight what’s happening inside the museum itself and increases the volume and engagement of its visitors.

other case studies