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Mobius Science Center plans to open in 2012 downtown

West 809 Building will house interactive museum

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 downtown in the West 809 Building in 2012.

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

The nonprofit Mobius Science Center will lease about 25,000 square feet of the building at 809 W. Main Ave., taking up nearly all of the main floor, except for the space occupied by 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 among about 20 Spokane sites 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,” including several parking areas and the STA Plaza, he added. It also is near Mobius Kids, a children’s museum that will remain in its current location in River Park Square.

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 also provide outreach programs such as 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 open, 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. Several years ago the group 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 said.

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