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New Name, Groundbreaking Ahead for Santa Barbara Children’s Museum Project

$25 million Lower State Street museum plans to put plenty of interactive displays and exhibits into play when it opens in 2016

The Santa Barbara Children’s Museum could break ground as soon as June, and museum officials say the city’s Building and Safety Department is currently checking its construction plans.

The city is leasing the Lower State Street site to the museum for free, on a former Redevelopment Agency-owned property near the Railroad Depot at 125 State St. Designed by the late architect Barry Berkus, the building will include interactive exhibits, a classroom lab, theater, rooftop garden and gift shop.

The $25 million museum project is meant to embrace science, technology, engineering, art and math — complete with a solar popcorn popper on the roof.

The plans for a local children’s museum have enjoyed widespread support for everything but the name itself. Executive director Sheila Cushman said a survey determined that “children” could limit the audience and “museum” may sound boring. A new name — without either word — will be announced soon.

The nonprofit organization needs 75 percent of the construction costs — which are around $7 million — to be shovel-ready. The project is looking for $25 million in total donations, which includes the costly interactive exhibits and a $5 million endowment.

As of August, pledges from board members had topped $5 million and Cushman hinted the campaign has already passed the halfway mark.

“Santa Barbara is a very expensive place to build, so the fact that our exhibits are costing more than the building is something,” she said. “They’re just spectacular.”

Many of the interactive displays will be originals, with design by Gyroscope Inc. and some fabrication done by Creative Machines.

The building was designed by Berkus, but interior architecture work is being completed by AB Design Studio. Armstrong Associates was selected as the contractor.

The museum is projected to open in 2016.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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