Science Center Moving Now, But Hoping for Permanent Move in the Future

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Staffers at the Cedar Rapids Science Center started packing up boxes on Wednesday and will begin setting up the exhibits in a new location on Thursday.

The museum will still have a temporary home at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids. But all the activities will now take place in an education center on the mall's lower level. What was known then as the Science Station moved from a location along the Cedar River on 1st Street southeast to that temporary mall site in 2008. That move came after the flood of June 2008 seriously damaged the museum's former location.

But while museum staffers worked on another temporary move on Wednesday they were hoping the next move involves a permanent, post-flood location.

Science Center workers have gotten practice in recent years in knocking down the hands-on science exhibits and boxing everything up. Employee Steve DeForest actually had to think a bit before he remembered how many times he's packed up and helped move since starting in 2007.

"We worked on a move in the Science Station buildings downtown before the flood and we've moved things here (Lindale) so yeah it's been three or four times," DeForest said.

The move this time will be a short one. The Science Center is giving up a high traffic upper floor space at the mall and consolidating everything in a lower-level location.

That location was the original temporary home after the flood and the museum still uses it now for science camps and group events. Science Center executive director Norah Hammond said what she hopes to do is talk about plans for a new permanent location sometime later this year.

"We've been working hard over the summer talking to the public, focus groups and one on one surveys. We're trying to figure out what people want, what they will support and where they'd like to see us relocate permanently," Hammond said.

Hammond said part of the delay in coming up with a long range museum plan involved the need to sell the organization's old home along the Cedar River first. That happened last fall.

Hammond said the options including moving back downtown or someplace close by. There's also the possibility the Science Center board will opt for a retail-space site with plenty of parking. There's no timetable yet when the museum board will make a decision and announce a plan to the public.

J.P. Grissel, a volunteer helping with the move, said he'd vote for something bigger than the upper floor mall space.

"I remember coming to the old Science Station and how much fun it was when it was big. And I'd be super excited to help with that move," Grissel said.

Museum leaders said a permanent Science Center site would probably need a fund raising campaign in the neighborhood of $3-$5 million dollars.

The current Science Station at Lindale Mall will reopen to the public on Saturday, January 5th in the mall's lower level.
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