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Local News

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Shelves Expansion Plans for Now

In announcing delay, officials cite need for new fundraising timeline, sharper emphasis on showcasing exhibits and strengths

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has announced that it will be taking a step back from its expansion plans, at least for the moment, until fundraising goals can line up with its future objectives.

In an open letter sent June 26 from president and CEO Luke Swetland, the museum has begun to make “necessary visitor improvements” and also acknowledges that it needs to address issues with its older facilities on the main Mission Canyon campus.

“At every step of our planning process, we have spoken with and listened to community feedback,” he said.

Earlier this year, the museum was preparing a development application to begin the first phase of the campus master plan and had started the technical studies required, as well as studying fundraising for construction.

“Through this analysis it has become clear that while community support for the museum is both broad and deep, the timelines for fundraising and construction are not aligned with one another to the degree they need to be to enable us to proceed in the way we had envisioned,” Swetland wrote.

“Moreover, as we have carefully studied the first phase of our project, the museum has come to the conclusion that it does not showcase our scientific, programmatic and educational strengths as fully as it might.”

As a result, the museum’s trustees have decided not to proceed — for now — with the proposed application for entitlements or the initiation of a specific plan from the City of Santa Barbara.

“We have placed the Phase I project on indefinite hold while we determine how to better synchronize our fundraising efforts, our commitment to stewardship of our facilities, and our program goals in our near term activities,” Swetland said.

He said the museum will be updating the public this fall on how its plans have progressed and steps it will be taking with the city.

He added that staff is committed to keeping the museum “a vital part of our community.”

“We look forward to refreshing our exhibits, developing new and interesting scientific engagement opportunities for children and adults, and maintaining our standing as a good neighbor,” Swetland said. “Thank you for continuing to work with us on this project as we move forward.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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