Spokane’s science museum is planning for two big moves this year.
The Mobius Science Center will depart its location across from River Park Square at the end of March and open temporarily in the main Spokane Public Library.
By the end of the year, Mobius leaders hope to make a second move to permanent quarters in the annex of the Washington Water Power building across from Riverfront Park.
After a quest decades in the making to find a permanent home for a science museum in Spokane, Mobius officials say they are headed to their dream location at a cost that will allow the museum to remain viable. Avista is offering the space for $1 a year.
“We’re just thrilled to have the ability to continue with our mission of transforming lives through science education, and do it in a way that is sustainable,” said Phil Lindsey, CEO of Mobius Spokane.
On Tuesday, Mobius and library officials signed the deal allowing Mobius to move temporariliy onto the library’s third floor.
Mobius won’t charge admission while it’s at the library and will be open the same hours as the library, said Andrew Chanse, the library director. Mobius, which plans to open at the library in April, won’t have to pay rent.
“They’re not charging us for use of the museum and we’re not charging them for the space,” Chanse said.
Lindsey said the museum already was preparing to find new space when last summer its landlord informed Mobius that it would have to move out by the end of March to make room for a different tenant. The science center opened in 2012 at the 809 West Main Building, the former downtown J.C. Penney, which was converted into condos and retail space.
The museum’s landlord is CPC Development Co., a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review. Betsy Cowles, chairwoman of Cowles Co., said lease terms are confidential.
“We have been working with Mobius for a very long time to help them find a location that better suits their needs,” Cowles said. “We are excited for them about their new space and about how we can transform the 809 building space into active retail that builds on the energy of downtown.”
Lindsey acknowledged that it would be easier to move directly into permanent space. But he said having to find temporary quarters has led to a strong partnership with the library that he believes will continue even after Mobius moves. He also said Mobius will reach a different audience at the downtown library.
“At the end of the day we could come out with something hugely positive and groundbreaking,” Lindsey said.
Chanse said that after Mobius leaves in six months or so, he hopes the space on the library’s third floor will continue to be used for similar learning opportunities.
“It gives us the chance to play with that space and see how it goes,” he said.
Mobius will move to the current location of children’s materials. Those will move to the second floor, where reference materials currently are kept, Chanse said. A shrunken reference section will move to the third floor, Chanse said.
Chanse said usage of the library’s reference area has been on a sharp decline in recent years.
Avista spokeswoman Jessie Wuerst said officials hope to finalize a lease agreement with Mobius by the end of March so renovation can get underway and the museum can move in by the end of the year.
“The whole community is pulling together on this,” she said.
The brick annex, built in 1911, is adjacent to Avista’s downtown substation – the landmark on the Spokane River adorned with the large blue “Washington Water Power” letters. Wuerst said Mobius initially would use only the first floor. Within a couple of years, Avista likely would move employees and items stored on the second and third floors and Mobius would be able to use the whole building.
Mobius would pay for renovations, but its rent would be only $1 a year.
Lindsey said Mobius anticipates that the cost of getting the building ready is “in the neighborhood” of $1 million. But he cautioned that unanticipated issues with the historic building could change the cost.
Mobius employs about 14 employees at the science center and its separate Mobius Children’s Museum at River Park Square, which will not move. Lindsey said he anticipates no layoffs during the transition.
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