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Da Vinci picks San Francisco architect for $130M science center in Easton

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Among those at Tuesday's news conference in Easton were (from left) Easton Mayor Sal Panto; Lin Erickson, executive director and CEO, Da Vinci Science Center; Easton Council member Sandra Vulcano; and state Rep. Robert Freeman.
Among those at Tuesday's news conference in Easton were (from left) Easton Mayor Sal Panto; Lin Erickson, executive director and CEO, Da Vinci Science Center; Easton Council member Sandra Vulcano; and state Rep. Robert Freeman. - (Photo / )

The Da Vinci Science Center of Allentown, in partnership with Easton, unveiled the architect that will design the proposed $130 million Da Vinci Science City in downtown Easton. Da Vinci also announced it would hold public forums, beginning tonight in Bethlehem, for feedback on the project.

During a news conference Tuesday held at the future site of the science center, Da Vinci executive director and CEO Lin Erickson announced that EHDD Architects of San Francisco was chosen to design what could be the largest aquarium and science center in Pennsylvania.

Working with EHDD will be Gyroscope Inc. of Oakland, Calif., which will provide support in exhibit design and development.

“EHDD has extensive experience designing science centers, aquariums and cultural attractions that serve communities well,” Erickson said. “We look forward to working with EHDD and Gyroscope to develop a 21st century science center that takes full advantage of state-of-the-art technology, advanced building and construction techniques and a one-of-a-kind site near the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers to bring science to life for residents of and tourists visiting the Lehigh Valley.”

The center, to be built at the site of the Days Inn Hotel on South Third Street in Easton, will feature interactive science exhibits, live aquatic animal exhibits, a creativity studio, an immersion theater, a destination restaurant and event center and the Da Vinci Experience, an interactive multimedia program about Leonardo Da Vinci.

Da Vinci and Easton also announced their intent to extend the feasibility planning period from 12 to 18 months.

“The selection of EHDD with Gyroscope Inc. represents another significant step forward for Da Vinci Science City,” Easton Mayor Sal Panto said. “The extension will provide ample time for the design of a world-class facility.”

The city has committed $30 million to the project if it moves ahead, including $6 million to buy the Days Inn site. If the plan would fall through, the city would sell the hotel and three acres of prime real estate to a developer.

Erickson said about $900,000 of the $1.2 million needed to pay for the master plan has been raised, and Panto said he’s not worried about raising the funds to complete construction.

“I am confident that this project will happen, but I’m not naïve to think it will happen overnight,” Panto said.

The selection of EHDD with Gyroscope was made after a request for proposals drew 16 submissions.

“At our very core is a passion for creating projects that bring communities together for the greater good and environments that inspire learning and exploration,” said Duncan Ballash, president of EHDD.

A series of four public forums is scheduled to provide residents of Northampton County an opportunity to learn more, ask questions and offer feedback on the project. EHDD architects are scheduled to make a presentation at each of the forums and participate in breakout sessions.

The forums are scheduled for:

  • Tonight from 7-8:30 at Northeast Middle School, 1170 Fernwood Road, Bethlehem.
  • Thursday, Aug. 24, from 7-8:30 p.m. at George Wolf Elementary School, 300 Allen St., Bath.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 29, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 404 Broadway, Bangor.
  • Thursday, Aug. 31, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Paxinosa Elementary School, 1221 Northampton St., Easton.

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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