L.I. Science Center sprucing up — as big move on hold

09/18/2014 5:15 PM |
Long Island Science Center executive director Michelle Pelletier with another staffer Thursday. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Michelle Pelletier, executive director of the Long Island Science Center, with program coordinator Judy Isbitiren, showing off handprints of volunteers and high school student interns featured on a newly painted interior wall.

With plans to move the Long Island Science Center to a new downtown Riverhead location up in the air, the educational nonprofit is looking to make the site more inviting to families while starting to plan for a possible renovation at the current West Main Street location. 

The Long Island Science Center had entered into a contract in 2013 to sell its property at 11 West Main Street to a developer who planned to build 48 upscale apartments at the site. The tower was to overlook the Peconic River and Grangerbel Park and be known as Blue River Estates.

The Science Center was then going to use the sales proceeds to purchase the long-vacant former Sears building on East Main Street.

Local architect Martin Sendlewski, who was pitching the Blue River plan to the town on behalf of a development group, and Larry Oxman, a Science Center board member who was also working on the deal, each declined to comment on the real estate plans.

“It would be premature,” Mr. Oxman said.

Blue River Estates that was on display at an IDA hearing. (file photo)

A rendering of Blue River Estates on display in Town Hall in 2013.

Reached at the Science Center this morning, Michelle Pelletier, the executive director, said “[the move] was supposed to have happened last spring and it didn’t, so we said let’s act now and do what we can to clean up our home.”

Ms. Pelletier said the nonprofit has already launched a five-phase revitalization project in hopes of making it “a safer more inviting space for children and parents” — starting with cleaning up the parking lot and cutting down on loitering and illegal parking in the center’s privately owned parking lot.

In June, the center posted a number of signs notifying the public that “unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at owners expense.” Keeping good on that promise, the center hired Kenny Darch, owner of D&K Recovery Inc., to keep the parking lot clear.

The company started towing cars earlier this month.

“Occasionally we find dangerous objects, and we want to make it safe for employees and the children that come here,” she said. “We spent a lot of time cleaning up a lot of garbage, adding planters, and the signs. People forget about us over here. It’s sad for us because we have a wonderful mission and we are trying to do something great,” Ms. Pelletier said. “We are really trying to work on beautifying what we have to do something good for the community.”

Ms. Pelletier said the organization will be using portions of grant money awarded to it in 2012 by the state Community Capital Assistance program to help with cleanup and possible expansion efforts. It had been holding onto a large portion of the award — $95,000 — in hopes of using it at the new location.

To further improve safety in the area, Ms. Pelletier said the organization hopes to install a fence around portions of the parking lot and build an outside garden and exhibit area using four existing parking spaces where experiments using bubbles or butterflies, for example, would be better suited.

It will also be repainting the outside of the center, and renovating the existing bathrooms inside, she said.

Ms. Pelletier said the organization is embarking on a capital campaign to expanding the interior of the museum, adding an additional classroom and removing a wall to expand an existing exhibit area.

At its current capacity, the center can only handle one school field trip at a time, she said. With the added space, the hope is to open it up to two schools at a time, and the public when possible, she said. Right now the center is only open to the public on Saturday.

Donations can be made on the nonprofit’s website, www.lisciencecenter.org.

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