Several institutions said they had to replace carpet, flooring, drywall and more as a result of recent flooding.
The Detroit Historical Museum has racked up about $20,000 in estimated damages, Salminen-Witt said, with “bills still rolling in.”
Foxworth and Funchess declined to comment on estimated repair costs, but said they have filed claims with various agencies, such as the city, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and 501(c)(3) insurance.
Insurance coverage aside, the fiscal and emotional costs take a toll.
The recent spate of floods has eroded more than just flooring and paint at “cash-strapped” institutions like the Detroit Historical Museum, Salminen Witt said.
In July, the museum’s full-time workforce fell 9 percent. While some reduction was the result of attrition, two full-time positions were dropped to make ends meet.
“Having things like [floods] happen over and over again is a real drain on the morale of the staff — with the workforce reduction, everybody is trying to get used to doing more with less,” Salminen Witt said. “I have five new responsibilities added to my normal job duties, and how is this gonna work?”
The Detroit Historical Museum lost $5,000 in revenue from parking and admissions.
Part of the problem is the city’s overtaxed and outdated sewer system, which combines stormwater and wastewater and is increasingly vulnerable as climate change dumps inches of water in a matter of hours, overpowering the Detroit’s pipes and pumps.
“We actually had stormwater coming up through our drains, through the toilets, through the sink,” Salminen Witt said. “You can always tell when the existing stormwater system in the city is overwhelmed because there’s mud on the floor.”
There are only three drains in the basement of the Detroit Historical Museum, where the popular Streets of Old Detroit exhibit is displayed.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2018 report card ranks Michigan’s stormwater infrastructure as a D+ on an A-to-F scale. The organization also reported $2 billion in stormwater needs across the state.
At a news conference last month, Mayor Mike Duggan said efforts are underway to strengthen the city’s stormwater system, including the installation of a $95 million retention area on the west side. He also noted the city was exploring the option of separating its sewage and stormwater systems.
Several arts and cultural institutions surveyed by Crain’s said they are looking into new green infrastructure technology to mitigate the effects of climate change in the future.
At the Detroit Historical Museum, bioswales and a green roof are on the table, Salminen Witt said.
“What we want to try to do is make the Wright Museum a demonstration space on what good practices look like that other people can take to their homes and communities,” said Leslie Tom, the museum’s chief sustainability officer.
After the 2014 flood, the Wright Museum partnered with the Michigan Science Center to build and manage stormwater diversion efforts. Today, the museum diverts around 190,000 gallons of stormwater each year, an achievement they hope to build upon in the future with more green infrastructure initiatives.
Just before the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the Wright also put in a vapor barrier into its new roof system, “so that when we do find more money, all the infrastructure is already there to do a green roof on top of our theater,” Tom said.
Motown Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit either did not respond to inquiries from Crain’s or were not available to comment. The Detroit News reported that the Motown Museum moved up its planned closure for its renovation and expansion project because of flood damage.
Despite the recent challenges, Detroit’s arts and cultural centers are optimistic about the future.
When the Detroit Historical Museum reopened Thursday, Salminen Witt reported 39 visitors.
“The future looks extremely bright,” Foxworth said. “In 90 days, people will come into a facility that has an upgrade.”