OLYMPIA - Crews are expected to finish building the exterior shell of the $18.5 million Hands On Children's Museum next month.
Pease Construction of Lakewood is building the shell for $3.1 million, part of the City of Olympia’s $8.9 million contribution to the project. The children’s museum is raising the rest of the money. The remainder of the costs are for finishing the interior of the museum and the land, design, construction management, permits and miscellaneous expenses.
The three-story, 28,000-square-foot building between Marine Drive and Jefferson Street is expected to open in spring 2012. The city hopes to turn over the finished exterior of the building to the museum by May 1, said Jay Burney, interim assistant city manager for special projects.
“Right now we’re on schedule for that,” he said.
But that’s just the exterior, with no internal walls or finishing. The museum is responsible for installing interior mechanical systems and designing and building exhibits.
Burney said crews found no contamination that caused any significant delay or required cleanup. He said the recent snow caused some delay, but that Pease Construction was doing a good job.
“We’re really happy with the progress,” he said.
The city is building the museum with $7.9 million in Public Facilities District dollars and $1 million in lodging tax revenue. The museum is raising the rest.
That’s going well, said Patty Belmonte, executive director of the museum. The museum has raised about $6 million more in monetary donations and materials. That brings total funds available to $14 million.
“We’re thrilled,” she said.
The museum is pursuing major donors now but plans a community fundraising campaign for the fall.
“The community will be able to buy different-size salmon that will run along the first-floor entry hallway to all of the galleries,” she said.
“That will be one great way for the community at large to get involved in the project.”
Galleries inside the museum will include topics such as Puget Sound, healthful living and forests.
The museum also is slated to have about 30,000 square feet of outdoor exhibit space. Planned features include a 130-foot water exhibit that starts as an artesian well, becomes a spring and ends in a pool that children can get into. A driftwood fort construction area, children’s garden and fire circle for storytelling also are planned, along with an area filled with sand, gravel and water.
Belmonte said the museum was planning to open the interior space in fall 2011 but decided to wait until the exterior exhibits were ready to open in spring 2012.
“It made the most sense for us to open everything in 2012,” she said. “I think we’re just a couple weeks away from having a much more definite timeline.”
The museum is a showpiece of a reclaimed industrial area of about 14 acres that the Port of Olympia turned into streets and buildable lots. Next to the museum is a public plaza jointly funded by the LOTT Clean Water Alliance and the City of Olympia, and the new LOTT headquarters/water education center is nearby. Surrounding lots are set aside for private development.
Belmonte cited economic studies that show the museum will generate visitors. The current museum already has, but it’s limited by its cramped quarters, she said.
There were 113,964 visitors to the museum last year, up from 106,102 in 2009.
“We had our highest-attended year in our history last year, and we are thinking we feel like that’s just such an excellent indicator that the museum is viable and important” for the community, she said. “We think that it’s an ideal time to be opening the new museum and really build on the continued growth of this museum.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org