Plans Revealed for Mulva Cultural Center in Downtown De Pere

World-renowned SOM is the architect for the proposed $50 million downtown project, which will include a three-story cultural attraction that will bring world-class exhibits and programs to the riverfront. Early conceptual renderings from SOM are now available for public viewing.

With a vision of showcasing world-class arts and culture in their hometown to inspire community pride and attract visitors and talent alike, De Pere natives Jim and Miriam Mulva are happy to announce today progress in the creation of a premier cultural center in the city’s historic downtown.

The public now can get a sneak peek of the proposed $50 million, three-story, 60,000-square-foot Mulva Cultural Center project. The imaginatively designed glass building on the east side of the Fox River will feature exhibit and performance spaces, including an auditorium, as well as an open-air atrium spanning all three stories, classrooms, an outdoor terrace and a veterans’ memorial.

The De Pere Cultural Foundation and Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), a world-renowned architectural and urban planning firm, to design the Mulva Cultural Center. SOM prepared drawings that are available for public viewing on the new Mulva Cultural Center website,

“The hiring of SOM as the architect for the Mulva Cultural Center shows just how significant this project is for the City of De Pere and the people of Northeast Wisconsin, and underscores our family’s longstanding commitment to enhancing the community my wife Miriam and I have known and loved since our childhood,” Jim Mulva says. “We are honored and thrilled to partner with SOM on what is a grand plan for bringing this addition to the heart of historic downtown De Pere as part of the city’s new Cultural District Master Plan.”

No stranger to conceiving visually appealing and highly functional places for education, creative arts and strengthening communities around the world, SOM touts the Mulva Cultural Center as “a destination and cultural nexus” for De Pere.

“We’re proud to be working with the Mulva family to realize the inaugural design of the Mulva Cultural Center,” says Scott Duncan, SOM Design Partner. “Our design for the Mulva Cultural Center creates a hub for the region’s creative community, bringing world-class cultural events and exhibitions to De Pere.”

This new home for the creative arts will host traveling exhibitions from leading institutions worldwide, diverse cultural programming, educational opportunities for people of all ages, and more. As visitors arrive to the Mulva Cultural Center, its transparent glass design will provide an elegant transition from outdoor to indoor spaces, creating visual connections from day to night and allowing the building to serve as a lantern on the bank of the Fox River.

“As a city, we have always been incredibly proud of our rich history and traditions while also endlessly striving to build a vibrant and forward-thinking future. The Mulva Cultural Center embodies that spirit. We look forward to this world-class addition, and we are grateful for this significant opportunity to enrich and grow our community,” De Pere Mayor Mike Walsh says.

Since the De Pere Common Council approved in late 2015 the Mulvas’ preliminary concept to build a cultural center in downtown De Pere, plans for the attraction have grown from the original vision. Plans include enhancing the 1 ½-acre grounds for the Mulva Cultural Center site to become a connecting point to the riverfront and the historic downtown district.

With the support of the city in the planning and development of the Mulva Cultural Center, its design, construction and operations are being financed by personal donations from the Mulvas or through grants from the Mulva Family Foundation and managed by the De Pere Cultural Foundation. The project calls for zero funding from the city, which has donated the vacant site along South Broadway between Wisconsin and Lewis streets in partnership with the De Pere Cultural Foundation for the purpose of the Mulva Cultural Center.

“With the completion of the De Pere Cultural District Master Plan last year, we continue to collaborate with the city on the advancement of arts and culture in the historic downtown district by moving forward with the Mulva Cultural Center,” Miriam Mulva says. “We expect this to be a centerpiece that further defines the district and inspires additional experiences that foster the spirit of De Pere.”

The De Pere Cultural Foundation is hopeful of having final designs for the Mulva Cultural Center completed later this year and then presenting those to the city for review and approval early next year. The foundation anticipates breaking ground later in 2020 and opening the doors in 2022.

Along with the development of the Mulva Cultural Center, the Mulvas have made a generous commitment toward the renovation and expansion of the De Pere Historical Society’s White Pillars Museum on North Broadway in downtown De Pere. Options at one time included having the museum within the cultural center, however, further analysis showed the impact the two projects could have separately framing the north and south ends of historic Broadway.

“It’s gratifying to know an updated White Pillars Museum and the new Mulva Cultural Center will serve as north-south bookends to De Pere’s enhanced cultural district,” Jim Mulva says. “Just think of the wonderful strolling experience visitors and residents will be able to have in the near future.”

The De Pere Cultural Foundation paused planning for the Mulva Cultural Center until the city completed the Cultural District Master Plan last summer to ensure the project and the city’s vision for the ongoing economic development and historic charm of the community aligned.

The Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors subsequently endorsed the master plan approved by the De Pere Common Council.

The Cultural District Master Plan outlines options for advancing the east side of downtown De Pere into an arts and cultural district and calls for a combination of public spaces, community art, restaurants, shops and residential experiences that engage with the riverfront and are conducive to the historic nature of De Pere.

“We envision the Mulva Cultural Center to be a premier cultural attraction with world-class traveling exhibits typically seen in major metropolitan areas in the United States. By bringing these vibrant, cultural experiences to Northeast Wisconsin, we have a golden opportunity to engage, inspire and transform our community as well as the visitors to our community—today, tomorrow and for generations to come,” Miriam Mulva says. “Further, we expect this to be a catalyst for further economic development for De Pere.”

The Mulva Cultural Center project includes a café and a public plaza honoring veterans. Visitors also will have access to indoor and outdoor observation decks for expansive views of the Fox River. The unique river views will allow the public to learn more about how the Fox played a crucial role in the founding and development of De Pere through an aerial view of De Pere’s lock system.

“The full scope of this project will both inspire and transform our region culturally and artistically for generations to come. We are immensely grateful to Jim and Miriam Mulva for making possible this tremendous gift from the De Pere Cultural Foundation and to be considered as the location for such an impactful development, and we look forward to working with the Mulva family and cultural foundation in order to move this project forward,” Mayor Walsh says.

Given the magnitude of the project, the De Pere Cultural Foundation and Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors sought the engagement of one of the largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering and urban planning firms in the world with the selection of SOM.

Since its founding in Chicago in 1936, SOM has completed more than 10,000 projects in over 50 countries. Renowned for iconic buildings and a commitment to design excellence, innovation and sustainability, SOM has created cultural experiences such as the Main Public Library at the Long Beach (Calif.) Civic Center and the Al Ahmadi Cultural Center in Kuwait. The firm also was entrusted with large-scale projects such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History renovation in Washington, D.C., and master planning for Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. And several of the world’s tallest and most recognizable skyscrapers were designed by SOM, including Burj Khalifa in Dubai, One World Trade Center in New York City, and Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and 875 North Michigan Avenue (formerly the John Hancock Center) in Chicago.

With its design of the Mulva Cultural Center, SOM is creating a space that fits the historic charm of De Pere and contemporary influence of the nearly century-old Claude Allouez Bridge, which was rebuilt and expanded a decade ago.

“The Mulva Cultural Center will be located right at the bend of the Fox River that first became our region’s center of commerce. This location, and the celebration of the river, is fundamental to understanding the history of our city. We are wise to ensure that our story of the past and our planning for the future is forever entwined,” says McKim Boyd, a member of the Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors and longtime member of the De Pere Historical Society.



The Mulva Family Foundation is a tax-exempt private foundation funded by contributions from Jim and Miriam Mulva.

Miriam (Brozyna) Mulva grew up in De Pere, Wisconsin. A graduate of St. Norbert College in her hometown and an active volunteer, Miriam serves on St. Norbert College’s Board of Trustees, is active in her faith and manages with her husband James the many activities of the Mulva Family Foundation.

James (Jim) Mulva also is a De Pere native and a graduate of the University of Texas, BBA and MBA. He is a former naval officer and retired chairman and CEO of Phillips Petroleum Company and then ConocoPhillips. Jim has served on many corporate boards, including the National Petroleum Council, and currently serves on the board of directors of General Electric, General Motors Company, Green Bay Packaging, and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he has served as board chair.

The Mulvas’ love of De Pere and culture continues to result in significant contributions to their hometown’s vibrancy. Examples of prominent gifts from the Mulva Family Foundation within walking distance of the Mulva Cultural Center include the Gehl-Mulva Science Center, Mulva Family Fitness and Sports Center, a statue named “The Conversion” and the Mulva Library, all located at St. Norbert College—Miriam’s alma mater.



The design, construction and ongoing operations of the Mulva Cultural Center will be financed by the De Pere Cultural Foundation from contributions by Jim and Miriam Mulva and/or grants from the Mulva Family Foundation. The project is managed by the De Pere Cultural Foundation and Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors.


Board members include:

  • Harvey L. Black Jr., Attorney/CPA
  • McKim Boyd, Owner, Union Hotel
  • Mike Haddad, President/CEO, Schreiber Foods
  • Tom Kunkel, Past President, St. Norbert College
  • Miriam and James Mulva, De Pere natives
  • Jonathan Mulva, Commercial Airline Pilot, United Airlines
  • Chris Renier, Owner, C. Renier Architects
  • Mike Van Asten, President, Incredible Edibles Inc.
  • Julie Van Straten, De Pere resident
  • Kristin Vogel, Mulva Library Director/College Innovation Initiative Lead, St. Norbert College



Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is an influential collective of architects, designers, engineers and planners, responsible for some of the world’s most technically and environmentally advanced buildings, and significant public spaces. From a strategic regional plan to a single piece of furniture, SOM’s designs anticipate change in the way we live, work and communicate, and have brought lasting value to communities around the world. The firm’s approach is highly collaborative, and its interdisciplinary team is engaged on a wide range of international projects, with creative studios based across the globe.

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