It’s official.

On Thursday, March 31, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro closed on the $10.25 million purchase of the former First Citizen’s bank building next door – taking the first big step on the long journey of attempting to be designated as a World Heritage Site.

Museum backers say the coming expansion and enhancement of the existing museum will earn the historic museum that landmark status and bring more tourism and activity to Greensboro and more attention to Guilford County.

Guilford County government is providing $2 million over the next half decade, as is the City of Greensboro – and each of those local governments has agreed to pay $1 million this year, with the rest of the funds to be paid over the next five years.

On Thursday, after the deal was inked, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, a co-founder of the civil rights museum, said that he was delighted with the progress.

Now the museum has the task of raising a lot more money to pay off the building purchase over a five-year period – and create exhibits and meeting space in the new building as well as renovate the exhibits in the old Woolworth’s building on South Elm Street where the historic national Sit-In Movement began in 1960.

“The entire project is going to cost about $25 million or $30 million,” said Alston, who added that he’s confident the State of North Carolina, charitable foundations, philanthropists and others would come through with the needed money in the coming years.

“We’re asking the state for $15 million and asking the federal government for $3 million,” Alston said.

He added that the money would be used to renovate and repair the old First Citizen’s building and also be used to spruce up the interior and exterior of the existing museum that contains the famous lunch counter where four students from what is now North Carolina A&T State University sat down and asked to be served 62 years ago.

“We’re fixing up the building to improve curb appeal,” Alston said.