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Families, staff ‘say goodbye’ to longtime Da Vinci Science Center weeks before downtown opening

Jason Addy
Tyler Walck watches on as his nephew, Ryan (left), and niece, Sophia, play on the Newton chairs Monday, April 1, the Da Vinci Science Center's last day at its Cedar Crest College facility.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Hundreds of families flocked to the Da Vinci Science Center on Monday for one last time before the organization moves to downtown Allentown.

The science center has been in its home on Cedar Crest College’s campus since 2005. But the curtains came down Monday evening on its almost-two-decade run in west Allentown amid a flurry of visitors.

The center's final day attracted a “pretty large attendance” as people braved the rain to mark the end of an era, Senior Manager of Operations Jennifer Pors said.

Throughout the day, parents shared their excitement about the Da Vinci Science Center’s move to the 800 block of East Hamilton Street — and the many exhibits and attractions it's expected to feature, Pors said.

Tyler Walck was enjoying the Da Vinci Science Center’s many hands-on activities Monday with his 4-year-old niece, Sophia, and 3-year-old nephew, Ryan.

“I think it’s going to be a really good fit for Allentown."
Tyler Walck on the Da Vinci Science Center's move downtown

Walck said he visited the science center as a child and “really loved the dinosaur exhibit here.”

He said he’s very much looking forward to taking Ryan to the new facility this spring when it presents its “Dinos Alive!” exhibit.

“I’m excited to see Ryan’s face because he loves dinosaurs as much as I do,” Walck said.

'Really good fit for Allentown'

The new science center “is going to be a great addition” to downtown Allentown and give families another reason to visit, Walck said.

Its proximity to Allentown Brew Works and two projects due to be completed in the fall — The Archer Music Hall and The Moxy, a boutique hotel — could help fuel the success of that area, Walck said.

“I think it’s going to be a really good fit for Allentown,” he said.

Alan Harris, of Brooklyn, New York, brought his kids Sally, 8, and Fox, 4, to the Da Vinci Science Center after a temporary power outage shut down the Lehigh Valley Zoo.

“There’s a lot of good energy, (but it’s) a little bittersweet. Everybody’s coming in to say goodbye to this place.”
Jennifer Pors, senior manager of operations

Harris said he and his family have been visiting the science center for several years.

Sally’s favorite part of the museum is its Newton chairs, which showcase Sir Isaac Newton’s second law of motion, while Fox said he likes doing projects at the science center.

“We come here all the time,” Harris said. “It’s the perfect rainy-day activity for the kids.”

But the celebration of the Da Vinci Science Center’s bright future also provided an obvious moment to look back on its past 19 years.

“There’s a lot of good energy, [but it’s] a little bittersweet,” Pors said. “Everybody’s coming in to say goodbye to this place.”

Planned features

The new Da Vinci Science Center is set to open May 22.

The state-of-the-art, 67,000-square-foot facility will have about three times as much space as the Cedar Crest College facility that closed Monday.

That building is set to become a private elementary school once the new Da Vinci Science Center opens in downtown Allentown.

Most of the exhibits at the old facility won't make the move downtown, except for its turtles and an animatronic T-Rex.

Jason Addy
Turtles are among very few exhibits that will make the move from the old Da Vinci Science Center to the downtown facility.

Officials are hoping the new center will be a major attraction, projecting it to draw about 400,000 visitors from within 100 miles of Allentown each year.

Its many planned features include a science-themed theater, space for several traveling exhibits and a Lehigh River Watershed exhibit that will house four North American otters — due to move in this week.

An "interactive and immersive space" that will explore Leonardo Da Vinci’s legacy as an inventor, scientist and artist, while a "Science in the Making" gallery will look at science and manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley.

And theme-park design companies are working on an intriguing exhibit called “My Body."

The bottom floor of the building will serve as a STREAM Academy — Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — and secondary campus for Central Elementary School students.