Spokane Journal of Business

Mobius Science Center work to start soon

Lydig will remodel part of old Burlington Coat's first floor, add mezzanine

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Mobius Science Center work to start soon
-—Rendering courtesy of ALSC Architects PS
The Mobius Science Center, as shown in this conceptual drawing, will be on the ground level of the former Burlington Coat Factory, at 809 W. Main, in downtown Spokane.

Spokane nonprofit Mobius Science Center plans to start work in June on the remodel of first-floor space in the old Burlington Coat Factory building downtown for its long-envisioned Mobius Science Center.

The multimillion-dollar center is on track to open in the fall of 2012.

Spokane-based ALSC Architects PS, which designed the interior retrofit, is submitting plans in the next few weeks to the city of Spokane for the remodel of what will be a 27,000-square-foot space at 809 W. Main, says Anna Burgard, director of advancement for Mobius Spokane, the parent organization for Mobius Science.

The nonprofit has selected Spokane Valley-based Lydig Construction Inc. as its contractor on the remodel. The first phase, which is expected to take about four months to complete, will include demolition work and construction of a mezzanine level, administrative offices, and classroom and meeting space, as well as flooring, electrical and plumbing upgrades, Burgard says.

"The ceilings are a little over 20 feet high, so that gives us opportunity for a second mezzanine level for additional exhibit areas and for people to get a view down onto the ground floor exhibits," she says.

Mobius plans to move four employees from the Chronicle Building, at 926 W. Sprague, to the new center's site in October after administrative offices are finished, Burgard says. She adds that the science center is expected to have 18 to 20 full-time employees when it opens.

The second phase, which Mobius Science plans to start shortly after the first phase is completed, will include finishing the interior and installing interactive and educational science and technology exhibits. The science center has contracted with Portland-based Anne Renate LLC to complete the exhibit design work, and it's finalizing selection of a contractor to build the exhibits, Burgard adds.

She says ALSC Architects has completed a final floor plan design, but some exterior design work is still being finalized.

"The mezzanine flanks Lincoln and Main in the corner of the building, and we'll be expanding the windows. From the street looking in, you'll be able to see the energy and fun inside," Burgard says.

The center's organizers have raised a little more than $12 million in private and public funding pledged toward the project, including $3.4 million allocated by the Legislature in 2010. Overall, the science center's construction cost to open—when including a second phase of constructing exhibits and site work—is estimated to be $7.5 million, Burgard says. The first phase that is scheduled to get under way in June is valued at about $2.1 million.

However, the center wants to raise $16 million for the entire project launch, calculating total construction and operating and staffing costs to open, Burgard says.

The center was first proposed in 2002 by a nonprofit group named Inland Northwest Science & Technology Center. In 2005, that group merged with the Children's Museum of Spokane to form Mobius Science and reopened the children's museum as Mobius Kids in the basement of River Park Square. Also in 2005, Mobius Spokane was formed as the parent organization for Mobius Kids and Mobius Science Center.

Burgard says that since November 2010, the science center has received some sizable charitable contributions and commitments. It received a $500,000 M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant, a $100,000 Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. donation, and a $100,000 pledge from the Spokane Association of Realtors, she adds.

The science center also has received widespread input from Spokane-Coeur d'Alene business and technology innovators toward exhibit ideas, Burgard adds, with the intent to gear some displays toward the region's strengths in natural resources, medical knowledge, and leading-edge technology.

Among those who have provided input are leaders from Signature Genomics, New Light Industries Ltd., and area inventors who hold patents, Burgard says.

It's also worked closely with area educational leaders—from public, private, and home-school representatives to the regional universities—to develop exhibit ideas.

"The list of the brain trust we have in the community is pretty phenomenal," she adds. "We're just getting a sense of how we can partner with them. We can go to these experts in creating the exhibits, and as we get down to the list of final exhibits, we're getting their input."

She says some exhibits here will be the tried-and-true ones that are well-received at other science centers around the country, "but we'll have some that speak to this region alone." In all, there will be about 80 exhibits.

Burgard says the remodel of the space in the old Burlington Coat Factory building is expected to cost about half of the $29.5 million budget estimated for an earlier proposed 56,000-square-foot facility that was to be constructed on the north bank of the Spokane River, just north of Riverfront Park. The move to an existing building in the downtown core is getting positive community response, Burgard adds.

"I think the community has been thinking about and wanting this for a really long time, and it's very rewarding to be able to deliver this to the regional community. We've had a lot of help from a lot of really bright people," she says.

Treva Lind
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