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ALLENTOWN, PA.— The Da Vinci Science Center is poised for the next phase of development of the new state-of-the-art facility that will be a major draw for downtown Allentown. During a virtual update, Science Center Executive Director and CEO Lin Erickson unveiled photorealistic renderings of the facility and exhibits, announced that PPL Corporation would be the title sponsor of the new building, and officially launched the fundraising campaign of $72 million. Current plans call for ground breaking in spring 2022, with the new facility to open in spring 2024.
“We are reimagining what a science center, and STEAM education will look like,” said Erickson who was at the helm of the organization from 1997-2005 and returned in 2013 to lead the Science Center through its next transformation. “The new Da Vinci Science Center will be a Regional Center of Excellence for STEAM Education, serving as a community hub and conduit to STEM careers, while inspiring curiosity in visitors of all ages through immersive experiences. With strong public support and PPL as the title sponsor, this project is full STEAM ahead,” she added.
Erickson unveiled renderings of the new 67,000-square-foot facility with the name Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion prominently featured on the exterior at the Hamilton Blvd. and Eighth St. entrances.
“Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s way of thinking, this world-class science center will ensure that our region can continue to thrive, said Vincent Sorgi, President and CEO of PPL Corporation. “One of the benefits of locating the new Science Center in Downtown Allentown is that it is within walking distance of thousands of students who live nearby. And PPL’s involvement demonstrates our strong commitment to supporting equitable, engaging, high-quality educational opportunities for all students and helping to prepare the next generation of STEM workers,” he added.
New facility to offer 30,000-square-feet of interactive exhibits
Designed by MKSD Architects, the new Science Center will be three stories with over 30,000 SF of exhibit space, triple the space of its current Cedar Crest facility. The reimagined space will engage visitors through distinct yet interrelated experiences that take inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s way of seeing the connections between and the possibilities within everything around him. Visitors of all ages will be immersed in experiences ranging from exploring the inner workings of the human body to the interconnectivity of humans with the natural world and the innovation that exists at the intersection of both.
The detailed renderings, created by exhibit design firm Thinc, showcase the main areas of the new facility:
“Leading the Science Center during this exciting transition is an honor. I am especially proud of the board and staff for sustaining the organization through the pandemic while we remained focused on reimagining a world class educational resource for the Lehigh Valley community,” said James McLean, Chairman of the Board at Da Vinci Science Center and Senior Vice President, Investments at Steel Valley Investment Group.
The new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion will build on its existing reputation as a regional leader in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) education serving, youth, families and schools throughout the greater Lehigh Valley and beyond, as well as a key contributor to the local and regional economy both directly and indirectly by helping to inspire and educate the next generation of engineers, scientists, innovators, and programmers.
The Science Center has assembled a talented team to design the new downtown facility including MKSD Architects,
Barry Isset & Associates, HB Engineers, and EMS Consulting. Alvin H. Butz is the construction manager; Gross McGinley, the project attorneys; and PFM, financial advisors.
Capital campaign kicks off, with Science Center over half way to its $72 million goal
The Da Vinci Science Center also announced the official launch of its comprehensive campaign, branded “Inspiring Curiosity for Generations to Come.” Led by Vincent Sorgi as the Campaign Leadership Committee Chair, the committee will lead the charge to raise private support. To date, the Science Center has raised $37 million, over half of its $72 million goal. Sorgi and his wife, Michelle, have also made a leadership gift to support the Da Vinci STEAM Learning Center, including free admission programs for area students in need. “As Chair of the Campaign, I am personally and deeply committed to the Da Vinci Science Center’s mission. As the former Chairman of the Board for Da Vinci, I witnessed firsthand the Science Center’s impact on our community, and I know we can expand that impact dramatically by offering world-class experiences across the Lehigh Valley,” said Sorgi.
Fundraising will be spearheaded by MaryEllen Dickey, recently hired as Chief Philanthropy Officer to oversee the private campaign, in addition to the Science Center’s ongoing fundraising program.
“I’m excited to build a strong, diversified fundraising program in support of the new facility and all of the valuable work of the Da Vinci Science Center,” said Dickey, who has successfully executed major capital fundraising campaigns including a campaign of more than $50 million.
Community leaders express strong support for new facility
The Science Center announcement included words of support from a long list of state and local representatives.
“Public funding is critical to this project, and thus far our local government and community leaders have been extremely supportive,” said Erickson. A key factor in deciding to move forward at this location was the support and encouragement that we continue to receive from the City of Allentown, local business leaders, ANIZDA, Lehigh County, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” she added.
Civic leaders voicing their support of the project included: Reps. Peter Schweyer, Michael Schlossberg, Gary Day, Ann Flood, Robert Freeman, Zach Mako, Ryan Mackenzie, Milou Mackenzie, Jeanne McNeill, County Executive Phil Armstrong, and Allentown Mayor, Ray O’Connell.
Mayor O’Connell said, “The City of Allentown is pleased to support the Da Vinci Science Center project because it is another great example of how the city continues to move forward.”. “The new Science Center will have a positive economic impact, attracting visitors to our downtown and more importantly will be a major educational resource for the residents of Allentown and add to the growing mix of venues that will make Allentown an even better place to live, to work, to learn, to play and to invest.”
Rep. Schweyer, who is proud of his Allentown roots, knows first-hand how the new Science Center will transform lives. “The new science center is going to be a major community asset, an economic driver and most importantly an educational resource that will help to reduce barriers for the more than 50,000 low-to-moderate income residents who live within one mile’s walking distance. I’m looking forward to experiencing all the captivating exhibits with my daughters.”
Rep. Schweyer isn’t alone in his enthusiasm for the project. The new facility is expected to draw more than 400,000 visitors annually. Two of those students who are looking forward to being at the Science Center’s grand opening are Gilbert and Celizandra, 8th graders at Raub Middle School who both participated in the Science Center’s announcement and community focus groups designed to gather input from local residents and students on what they’d like to see at their science center. The two teens were excited to see the photo renderings and agreed that while they are looking forward to all of the experiences and education opportunities the facility will have to offer, they are most excited to meet the river otters.
For more information on the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion, visit www.davincisciencecenter.org.
About The Da Vinci Science Center
The Da Vinci Science Center is a national award-winning non-profit science center that has been bringing science to life and lives to science for nearly 30 years. Da Vinci Science Center experiences make science fun and approachable, helping to connect people of all ages and backgrounds with the wonders of science. The Science Center engages more than 150,000 participants annually with its exhibits, programs, events, and partnerships. To learn more about these and other programs, visit www.davincisciencecenter.org and follow them on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter.