Bradham’s Legacy to ask city to request nearly $1 million grant for Pepsi Museum in downtown New Bern

Proposed location of Bradham's Legacy - Pepsi Musuem located at the corner of Hancock and South Front Streets. Photo by Wendy Card.
Proposed location of Bradham’s Legacy — Pepsi Musuem located at the corner of Hancock and South Front Streets. Photo by Wendy Card.

Update on April 5: The original proposal for the Pepsi Museum has been re-written. See new proposal on pages 27 – 47 of the Board of Aldermen meeting packet for their April 11 meeting.

Update on March 29: New Bern Now obtained a copy of the revised Table of Contents which was outlined in the proposal from Bradham’s Legacy — the governing body for a future Pepsi Museum. It was given to the Board of Aldermen prior to them going into session last night. Read it here.

Updated on March 28: Included proposed museum staffing.

A local nonprofit is requesting that the City of New Bern apply for nearly a million dollars in grant money to fund a new Pepsi Museum in downtown New Bern. The group estimates the new museum could have a nearly $50 million annual economic impact on the city.

According to the agenda for the New Bern Board of Aldermen’s March 28 meeting, Bradham’s Legacy will ask the city to submit an application on its behalf for a Rural Transformation Grant in the amount of $950,000 through the N.C. Department of Commerce. If the grant is approved, the funds would be used to develop a city-owned building to house a museum “for the purpose of educating the public on Pepsi’ s important historical relationship with New Bern.”

Bradham’s Legacy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was formed in 2020 to be the governing body for the planned museum. Mayor Jeffrey Odham and City Manager Foster Hughes were appointed to the board of Bradham’s Legacy on Jan. 24, 2023.

According to information from the group provided as part of the March 28 agenda packet, a proposed location for the museum is land at the intersection of Hancock and South Front streets owned by the city. The facility would be between 6,000-8,000 square feet, with the majority of the space utilized for an exhibit area and a tasting room that can be opened to access an exterior courtyard with table seating and outdoor displays.

According to the information from Bradham’s Legacy, detailed design plans for the museum will be developed in 2023 once the site is secured.

Rural Transformation Grants can be used for Main Street and downtown investment and revitalization projects. The next cycle of approved grants will be announced on June 13.

A letter from Bradham’s Legacy Chairman John Haroldson included in the packet states, “We believe this museum would be an important attraction to New Bern, especially given its proximity to future I-42. Our research corroborates significant visitation for museums of this sort, and our visitation estimates suggest that New Bern will experience a sizable boost to its local economy.”

New Bern Now requested public records related to Bradham’s Legacy from the City of New Bern and Swiss Bear, Inc. on Feb. 2, 2023. Requests have not been fulfilled.

The Board of Aldermen will meet March 28 at 6 p.m. in the City Hall courtroom.

Pepsi Museum project overview

Bradham’s Legacy was registered by Lynne Harakal, the executive director of Swiss Bear, Inc., on March 20, 2020, according to the N.C. Secretary of State’s website.

While Alderman, Sabrina Bengel lobbied the North Carolina Railroad Company to sell the property on the corner of Hancock and South Front streets to the city. The land was purchased with Municipal Service District (MSD) funds by the city for the purpose of the Pepsi Museum for $227,000 on Nov. 8, 2021.

At the time of the sale, Bengel was a managing partner for the Birthplace of Pepsi.

Also in November 2021, Tryon Palace received historical items donated from the late Mitchell Slotnick for the planned Pepsi Museum. According to Bradham’s Legacy, numerous artifacts were donated to the Tryon Palace Commission and PepsiCo, Inc. has a second significant collection that they intend to donate.

The Tryon Palace Commission plans to loan the collection to the Pepsi Museum and provide “museum quality storage, cataloging and other oversight services as needed.” A lease agreement will be written to lease a facility for the museum for an unspecified annual fee.

The packet information states, “Bradham’ s Legacy believes that the City is receptive to the proposed lease due to the potential economic impact within the NC Opportunity Zone and within the Historic Downtown and Five Points area. An Opportunity Zone is an incentive for community investment established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income census tracks.”

Financing for the museum

The land and building for the Pepsi Museum are being provided by the City of New Bern. Swiss Bear, Inc., which has implemented the Main Street program since 1980, is coordinating the effort and acting as “fiduciary agent of the funds resulting from grants and donations received to implement the opening of the Museum,” according to information that will be presented to the board of aldermen.

In addition to the Rural Transformation Grant, other anticipated grant requests include $750,000 in funding from the PepsiCo Foundation to go toward building and exhibit design and installation.

Swiss Bear also plans to coordinate and implement a capital campaign to raise the remaining project funds, which will be solicited through a combination of state/local foundations, and regional/local businesses and donors.

According to the information from Bradham’s Legacy, it is projected that 99% of the funds needed will be obtained by “corporate, foundation, and public grants as well as targeted private giving. The last 1% will be through small donations made by the public.”

Museum staffing

Bradham’s Legacy proposed the following positions, salaries and benefits in their proposal to the Board of Aldermen outlined on page 62 of the information packet. The Table of Contents was changed prior to the BOA going into session on March 28.

Position                         Salary              Benefits                        Total
Director                             $37,411              $16,022                             $53,433
Assistant Director           $33,960              $15,107                             $49,067
Interpreter                       $31,200              $14,375                             $45,575
Gift Shop Manager         $33,960             $15,107                             $49,067
Part time positions (2) 10/hour – 1,352 hours/year                         $13,520

Financial impact on New Bern

Tryon Palace and the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center estimate that the Pepsi Museum would command an average ticket price of $8 per person, with annual visitation of at least 50,000. Museum revenues would be used to cover the staffing and operating costs of the museum.

According to economic impact estimates generated by the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center and Tryon Palace, annual estimates are:

  • Direct Local Sales-$31,903,849
  • Lodging-$1,775,976
  • Transportation (gas, air, bus, etc.), Food & Beverage-$6,969,573
  • Retail-$2,566,470
  • Miscellaneous Other- $3,509,411
  • Total Direct Local Sales – $46,725,279

The museum is estimated to create 503 new full-time jobs, and 77 new part-time jobs.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.

Related article: New Bern Mayor and City Manager Appointed to Board of Bradham’s Legacy