With its glass shattered, peeling paint, and gaping holes in interior drywall, the St. Petersburg Science Center is a dilapidated shell of the shining lighthouse of knowledge that was dedicated in 1966 and expanded seven years later. The city building at 7701 22sd Avenue N has been vacant for three years; plans were underway to bulldoze and use the land for the expansion of a nearby sewage treatment plant.
Thanks to $ 3 million in federal funding, plus $ 500,000 in previously approved public funds, the Bunsen burners at the Science Center will soon be re-ignited.
Pathfinder, a St. Petersburg non-profit organization focused on outdoor and environmental education for young people, was specifically named on the grant application, and will therefore be the lead agency, working in building and taking decisions about which other groups can use it.
âThere aren’t any solid plans yet,â said Amy Dugan, executive director of the organization. âThis is the next step, to do strategic planning. Check with the community what the community wants and needs. How can we better support families, the tech industry and jobs in St. Pete. But it’s really unlimited what we can do.
City council member Robert Blackmon, who led the facility’s backup and restoration process, said Friday before a brief ceremony announcing that he had previously been a student at the Science Center.
âI hated it, every summer,â he laughed. “And looking back, it was the best science education I have ever had.”
Blackmon received legislative support from Senator Darryl Rouson and Representative Linda Cheney, as well as U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, who introduced the appropriation bill to Congress.
Rouson also attended the Science Center in his youth. Cheney’s children too.
Blackmon said he hopes the renovated science center will serve multiple uses – “kind of like a dining hall for science” – and that a community event space, unique to the west of town, will. part of the design.
Science, he said, will be at the heart of this era where STEM education is essential.
âIn 2019, when I started talking about it, we didn’t have a pandemic. We haven’t had the worst red tide in recent memory. Now we are doing it and we want the children in the area to be able to help solve these problems and prevent them from happening again. “
Durand, who has lived in St. Pete for two decades, said she still hears local residents talking about the Science Center’s glory days.
âThere is an association of science and technology centers in Washington, DC, and I called them to discuss what are the best practices for renovating a new science center? And they said, âThis science center in St. Petersburg – we talk to people all the time who love this place.
âThey had an intern who came to work for them because he loved the Science Center so much. So there was definitely a lightning bolt in a bottle with that.