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$6.5 Million Visalia Children’s Museum Ready To Break Ground

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 12.11.58 PMA long awaited ground breaking is set for early next month for a $6.5 million interactive children’s museum in Downtown Visalia. “We can’t wait to get going” says Bill Whitlatch,board member for ImaginU Museum that has garnered more than a million dollars in local support to build and equip the 15,000 sf facility.

The museum will be a cornerstone development  for the new Visalia Civic Center area in east Downtown. The ambitious project has been in the works for years and now awaits only the demolition of an old auto repair metal building to get started.That should be complete in the next few weeks.

ImaginU Museum applied for their conditional use permit  for their new building at Oak and Tipton in Visalia last March and was to break ground by July. But delays in relocating a tenant who rented from the city, who owns the land – delayed the groundbreaking until now.

The auto repair place – Foreign Auto Works recently relocated to Cain St near the DMV and now some small asbestos removal will take place followed by full demo of the old building the first week in December. ”About 90% of our construction plans are into the city” adds Whitlatch.

The Museum began as the idea of founder Angela Reyna in 2001,and  through the generosity of Giant Chevrolet who donates the existing building at 700 E Main – the idea has grown into a fully functioning learning center because of the interest, talents, and dedication of people in the community. The educational and interactive museum has everything from science exhibits, an intricate train set, music and other activities for children to explore their talents.

In 2011 the project was awarded a $5 million plus grant to help build a permanent larger facility. While the board of directors looked around the city for a place to build they settled on some city-owned land along Mill Creek at the gateway to what is expected to be the new Downtown Civic Center district where a new police and fire administrative office,911 Center as well  council chambers will be constructed in coming years. The new museum is just a block away from the Chamber of Commerce as well.

The design of the new museum is next to what will be an enhanced Mill Creek with park-like setting and walking trail from Downtown.

Each year, the museum hosts a variety of interactive events and displays, many of which are free to the public.

“We expect the place to attract children from all over the Valley” suggests Whitlatch. “We already have many of our interactive displays in storage.”
He expects it will be open for visitors in early 2015.

 

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