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PHILADELPHIA-Plans to replace the existing National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall with a new $100-million, 80,000-sf home got a kick-start Monday with a $25-million donation from local philanthropist Sidney Kimmel. James Polshek of New York-based Polshek Partnership is lead architect for the five-story, stone-and-glass structure.

Polshek recently completed the Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History among other notable museums around the world.

The new Jewish museum will be on Independence Mall East where the current museum now stands. The Congregation Mikveh Israel, which is connected to the existing museum, will remain. It is among the country’s oldest synagogues and its congregation founded the original museum in 1976.

In contrast to the current museum’s 2,600 sf of exhibit space, the new building will have 20,000 sf of permanent exhibition space and two smaller exhibition areas of 5,000 sf and 3,000 sf, respectively, for temporary exhibits. It will also house an academic research center and an auditorium.

On top of its tower will be an eternal flame.

Creation of the new museum coincides with ongoing renovation of the Independence Mall area where Liberty Bell Center and National Constitution Center are currently under construction. A new Independence Visitor Center opened there this year.

Plans call for removal of the current museum and groundbreaking for the new one in 2004, with completion set for 2006.

Kimmel’s donation brings the amount of funding raised for the museum project to just more than $36 million.

Kimmel is chairman and CEO of locally based Jones Apparel Group, and, according to a recent ranking by Philadelphia magazine, the eighth-richest Philadelphian. He is certainly among its most philanthropic. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which opened here last December, is one of many notable projects he has helped fund here and in other cities.

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