The proposed Da Vinci Science City in Easton could create 200 new, full-time jobs and generate $45 million of economic activity a year in the area, officials said this morning at a news conference where new details emerged on the project.
The Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown is considering building a second and larger facility in Easton at a cost of $130 million that would be larger than science centers that are major tourist attractions in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Da Vinci proposed building a 170,000-square-foot facility that would include an aquarium with a 500,000-gallon salt water tank that would include sharks, a giant 3-D theater, a Creativity Studio public workshop space, exhibits, a restaurant and banquet area with seating for 500, officials said.
“This is a momentous occasion for Da Vinci Science Center and the city of Easton,” said Lin Erickson, executive director and CEO of Da Vinci.
Da Vinci Science City's 60,000 square-foot science center would include hands-on educational exhibits and experiences that focus on industry (engineering and manufacturing), health and nature (energy and environment. And, as the center's namesake implies, art and design will be integrated into the STEM experience. In addition to the 500,000 gallon salt water tank, the center would include smaller fresh water aquariums and an exhibit on the Lehigh Valley watershed.
The new science museum is projected to attract about 600,000 visitors a year, nearly three times more than the Da Vinci’s present facility, which has outgrown its space. The new location would attract visitors from 50-plus miles, officials said.
A three-acre site in Easton occupied by the Days Inn at South Third Street and Larry Holmes Drive is being considered for the new Da Vinci Science City.
The city of Easton is committed to investing $30 million, including the cost to buy the Days Inn property, into the new Da Vinci Science City, and to help lead fundraising efforts to raise $100 million to complete the project.
State Rep. Bob Freeman said it would be a much-needed anchor for that part of Easton and that “we look forward to the ripple effect” of this project.
“It is Easton’s time,” Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said, calling the project the “best kept secret” for a year.
At a special Easton City Council meeting Monday, members approved an agreement of sale to buy the property at 185 S. Third St. from Saral Inc. for $5.9 million on Dec. 29, 2017.
The council also approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Da Vinci Science Center that calls for a yearlong feasibility study of the project.
Construction could begin in 2019.
Da Vinci Science City will complement the Da Vinci Science Center’s facility in Allentown, which will be re-focused over time as a Children’s Discovery Center for children ages 8 and under.