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Science center finds a downtown Spokane home

A long-planned interactive science center in Spokane has found a home.

Board members of Mobius Spokane said Wednesday they will open their long-discussed Mobius Science Center in a central downtown building in 2012.

The nonprofit project will take up most of the ground floor of West 809 Building in downtown Spokane.

That building, at 809 W. Main, now holds Jos. A. Bank and P.F. Chang’s on the main level, plus Oz Fitness and roughly 20 condos on upper floors.

Mobius Science Center will lease about 25,000 square feet, taking up nearly all the main floor except for P.F. Chang’s. Men’s clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank will move to another downtown site.

The building is owned by CPC Development Company, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

The building was the board’s first choice from about 20 different Spokane sites it considered earlier this year, said board president Dr. Neil Worrall.

“It’s in a central location within walking distance to a lot of other amenities” and is near several parking areas and a brief walk from the downtown Spokane STA Plaza, he added. It also is near Mobius Kids, a children’s museum that will remain in its current location.

About 12,000 square feet of the downtown space will be used for exhibits.

The goal is to create a highly interactive center promoting hands-on exploration of science, technology and math. The center will attract visitors and tourists by showcasing exhibits downtown. It will also provide outreach programs that take science learning to school workshops, demonstrations, lectures, summer camps and festivals.

“We will be a very active regional institution,” said Chris Cable, Mobius Spokane’s CEO.

Putting the science center into the building will cost about $15 million, Cable said.

The group has about $11 million in commitments and state funds. It will use tax credits, private grants and a community campaign to cover another $4.7 million needed to pay for renovations and startup, plus creation of a reserve fund and endowment.

Once opened, some operating costs will be covered through paid admissions and family memberships.

Late last year the Mobius board halted plans to locate the center on the north bank of the Spokane River. Going back several years, the group initially negotiated with the Spokane Park Board to build a 45,000-square-foot center near Washington Street and Cataldo Avenue. But that project stalled over fundraising, lease arrangements and other issues.

Worrall said the economy played a key role in changing the plan. Last fall the board re-examined its options and decided it needed to focus on a smaller, less costly science center, he said.

“We saw this as a more appropriate project for the times we’re living in, considering the economy,” Worrall said.

Worrall noted Mobius will pay market rates for the duration of an initial 10-year lease. The lease provides an option to buy the space, Cable noted.

The Mobius board includes Anne Cowles, wife of Spokesman-Review Publisher Stacey Cowles.

Anne Cowles did not participate in the site selection process, Worrall said. She removed herself entirely from any discussions over the downtown building, he added.

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