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Kids’ Museum Abandons Site Senior Center’s Eviction, Nearby Sex Offenders Decisive

Jonathan Martin And Robin Rivers S Staff writer

The Children’s Museum of Spokane has killed plans to turn a West First Avenue building into its permanent home, an attorney for the museum said Monday.

The proposed lease would have evicted Mid-City Senior Center and placed the museum less than two blocks from a cluster of sex offenders, neither of which museum board members wanted.

Attorney Bob Douthitt said the board wasn’t told about the sex offenders before announcing plans to move into the former Odd Fellows Hall at 1017 W. First.

“We were told different things that did not end up to be correct,” Douthitt said Monday night.

The museum planned to open next year, drawing an anticipated 35,000 children and parents with hands-on exhibits.

Board members have not decided on a new site, Douthitt said.

News reports earlier this month revealed that 12 registered sex offenders live in the Otis Hotel, less than two blocks from the proposed museum site.

After receiving assurances of improved safety for museum patrons from police and a downtown business group, museum officials stuck with the site. Corrections officials promised to place no more sex offenders in the hotel.

But Douthitt said there was also concern about evicting the seniors.

Children’s Museum board members would not comment Monday on the decision to rule out West First as a site.

That’s good news for Mid-City Concerns, the organization that runs the senior center. The nonprofit group, which serves 22,000 meals yearly to impoverished elderly, was told to vacate by Aug. 1, prompting a frantic and unsuccessful search for cheap space.

“We were within a hair of being evicted,” said Mid-City board president Carl Wilson.

The Children’s Museum made its four-month debut last year at a temporary site at 222 N. Post. About 10,000 children and adults visited the exhibits, which ranged from a replica of a Greek village to a tornado generator.

The West First location, announced July 9, was touted by civic leaders, who have encouraged efforts to improve the neighborhood.

A parade of kids and their parents would have been a lure to businesses considering locating on West First, city officials said.

Efforts to raise the $500,000 needed for a permanent site were well received. The father of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates gave $75,000.

The museum’s withdrawal does not hamper the neighborhood revitalization effort, City Manager Bill Pupo said Monday.

“The Children’s Museum is a valuable asset, and we need to figure out a solution for them,” he said.

The decision was welcomed by City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers, who feared the closure of Mid-City. More than 830 impoverished seniors live in the downtown area.

“I’d love to see Mid-City seniors stay where they are, because it’s so hard for seniors to adjust to change,” said Rodgers. “We should protect the people who are most vulnerable.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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