Borough Council will consider a proposal by the children’s science museum Discovery Space that would allow the museum to occupy the former Verizon building located at 224 S. Allen St.
The proposal was sent to Borough Manager Tom Fountaine by Discovery Space board of directors Chairman Roger Bagwell. The board is asking the council to convey the building space to the museum to allow for the growing demands of extra space.
Currently, the Verizon building is leased to Penn State as extra office space, Fountaine said. This lease expires in October.
According to Fountaine, the borough purchased the building in 2007 with the intent of turning the property over to the museum. Unfortunately, the economic downturn shortly after made raising funds difficult for the museum, and it opened its doors in a smaller space at 112 W. Foster Ave.
“Since opening, the Discovery Space has continued to grow and it now faces the need to find a larger space to continue serving the community,” he said.
The borough has several options available in regards to the fate of the Verizon building, he said: sell or gift the property to Discovery Space, offer the property for sale to the highest bidder or transfer the property to the redevelopment authority and direct it to solicit development proposals for the site.
As a long-time supporter of the museum, Councilman Peter Morris said he was happy to hear the news that their financial picture is sound, adding that if it wants to stay downtown, that’s the right decision.
“However,” he said, “we ought not go as far as to give it to them for free. I think they can afford to pay something for it and have money left over.”
Councilman Evan Myers said he also is a supporter of Discovery Space, but verified with Fountaine that the borough initially paid about $750,000 for the Verizon building. He also verified that if the museum uses the building, the borough would not receive taxes on the use of the building.
“It would have a fairly significant financial impact on the borough if we do anything other than sell,” he said.
President Jim Rosenberger said the impact of the museum reaches beyond simply the borough and into the Centre Region. He suggested speaking with the neighboring municipalities about the proposal as well as encouraging the private sector to step up with contributions.
“Many other communities have done similar things,” he said.
The borough will revisit the proposal during its March 2 meeting.