From the outdoor learning garden to the fire station, airplane, brick factory, puppet stage and treehouse inside, children will have plenty to do when Discovery Place Kids opens in downtown Huntersville this fall.
You won't even have to guide them once they walk into the 24,000-square-foot building at Gilead Road and N.C. 115, John Mackay, Discovery Place president and CEO, predicted on a "sneak peek" media tour of the facility last week. They'll immediately see what appeals to them and head straight for it, he said.
With seven themed areas that offer fun and educational activities and exhibits, Discovery Place Kids expects families in the Cabarrus-Lake Norman region to visit often each year, project manager Deborah Curry said. The museum will be for children up to age 7 or 8.
The building, an $18.7million public-private venture, will house the museum on the first two floors and town offices on the third. A three-level parking deck is complete outside. And Charlotte developer Norcom Properties plans to construct a three-story building on the Discovery Place Kids lot that will house restaurants, other retailers and offices.
Norcom's Brian Cillian said the company hopes to complete its building by Jan. 1. Construction hasn't begun, but Cillian said it could be built in six to eight months.
The Huntersville museum is the prototype for four or five other Discovery Place Kids planned in the Charlotte region in the next decade.
Curry said she visited 30 museums across the country to generate the best ideas for Discovery Place Kids.
"We asked at other museums, 'Where do you find adults interacting with children the most?'" she said.
Discovery Place Kids will feature exhibits, programs and play environments that help develop cognitive, motor, communication and social skills.
Children will become visual artists, music producers and actors; they'll hang out in the two-level treehouse and trade nature items.
They'll also role-play in a grocery store, fitness center, doctor's office and restaurant; visit a fire station, veterinarian's office, bank and law office, explore the undersea world and plan buildings.
The museum has no firm opening date. It could be sometime in October or November, Mackay said.
Museum workers and volunteers will build and install the exhibits this summer. The museum seeks 80 volunteers ages 12 and older who will be trained to assist visitors.
Discovery Place Kids has raised at least $3million for the exhibits and is entering the public phase of its fundraising campaign. The goal is $200,000.
"This will be a very safe and fun place offering endless opportunities for children," Mackay said.
To volunteer, visit www.discoveryplace.org/support/volunteer.
For more details about the museums, visit www.discoveryplacekids.org.
Mooresville cracks down on downtown building owner
MOORESVILLE Howard Kosofsky has boarded up two cracked storefront windows on his vacant building at 132 S. Main St., but town commissioners say they still aren't pleased by conditions on the property.
Commissioners voted last week to have Mooresville Zoning Administrator Mandy Edwards install a 2-inch-tall barrier along the sidewalk near the building to keep gravel from continually spilling from a side lot. The gravel creates a hazard for pedestrians, commissioners said. The town will bill Kosofsky's Old Downtown LLC for the work.
Kosofsky didn't appear at the meeting last week at which commissioners expected him to update them on his efforts to improve the site. Kosofsky boarded up the windows after meeting with commissioners April 12. Town ordinance allows boards if a building is unoccupied.
"If a person doesn't take the initiative to come to a meeting and meet with us, he's disrespecting our zoning," Houston said.
Kosofsky told the Observer he didn't attend the meeting because he felt he'd complied with the ordinance by boarding up the window.
"The rocks never came up at the first meeting," he said. "It goes on and on. When's enough enough?"
He said his company has invested millions of dollars to improve downtown buildings that now house restaurants and offices.
Cabarrus EDC celebrates new investment, jobs successes
CONCORD At their annual stakeholder lunch on May 14, officials with the nonprofit Cabarrus Economic Development Corp. celebrated some big successes in fiscal 2009-10, including $70million in new capital investment and 300 new local jobs.
Companies that announced locations, expansions or renovations included SBM Solar, MC Polymers, CBL Path, Rug and Home, The Old Creamery, Hendrick Motorsports and Celgard, officials said.
Since 2004, nearly $400million in new capital investment, at least 2,200 local jobs and $182million in payrolls have been generated, said John Cox, president and CEO of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber and the Economic Development Corp.
"We've worked with small and large businesses alike, with new and expanding companies equally and in a vast diversity of industries," Cox told EDC stakeholders.