Construction Begins on Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion in Allentown
By Colin McEvoy on April 26, 2022
Construction began on a new educational facility in downtown Allentown that will become a major attraction for the Lehigh Valley, as well as a regional center of excellence for education of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM).
A groundbreaking ceremony was held April 22 for the Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion, an 67,300 square-foot educational facility at 18 N. 8th Street that is expected to be completed and open to the public in the spring of 2024.
The $80 million project will include more than 30,000 square feet of STEAM-based interactive exhibits, an 8,600 square-foot STEAM Learning Center, a 150-seat demonstration theater, a grand courtyard and exhibit space, and oth
er amenities for visitors.
The center will provide access to STEAM education resources for the 17,000 students in the Allentown School District, as well as the 52,000 residents who live within one mile of the site, according to Lin Erickson, Executive Director & CEO of the Da Vinci Science Center.
“We plan to develop a STEAM career ladder for youth in the immediate neighborhood and throughout the region, helping them to prepare for careers in high demand STEM fields,” Erickson said. “The Science Center will be a key contributor to the local and regional economy both directly and indirectly by helping to inspire and educate the next generation of engineers, scientists, innovators, and programmers.”
Hundreds attended the outdoor ceremony for the groundbreaking, where renderings of the future center were displayed, young children played with educational toys on the lot, and spectators were entertained by the William Allen High School ROTC Color Guard & Chorale and Dieruff High School Drumline.
The new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion will be in addition to the main Da Vinci Science Center facility in Allentown, which has been bringing science to life and lives to science since 1992 through hands-on exhibits, programs, and partnerships.
The new Allentown facility is receiving $11 million in Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding, according to Gov. Tom Wolf. RCAP funds support critical expansion projects, provide opportunities for job creation and employment training, and community revitalization across the commonwealth.
Wolf, who was among several speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony, said the new facility will be a workforce development partner to regional businesses, and noted that STEAM education is more important than ever to ensure a trained workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.
“The Da Vinci Science Center has long been an innovative hub where children of all ages could experience hands-on STEAM learning,” said Gov. Wolf. “This investment in the center’s expansion is an investment in a bright future for every child who walks through the door and the local economy alike.”
Others speakers like U.S. Rep Susan Wild and state Sen. Pat Browne noted that support and funding for the project was a truly collaborative and bipartisan effort, which included politicians from regional, state, and federal levels from both parties working together.
The team behind the new facility include MKSD Architects, Barry Isset & Associates, HB Engineers, EMS Consulting, Ideum, and Roto Design Firm. Alvin H. Butz is the construction manager; Gross McGinley, the project attorneys; and PFM, financial advisors.
Also during the ceremony, the Da Vinci Science Center also presented its Visionary Leadership Award to Vince Sorgi, President & CEO of the PPL Corporation. PPL is the title sponsor for the building, and Sorgi has served on the Da Vinci Science Center Board of Trustees since 2009, including two terms as board chair from 2014 to 2020.
As board chair, he led a strategic planning process that led to the Da Vinci Science Center’s commitment to take the strategic actions necessary for expansion, Erickson said. After stepping down as board chair, Sorgi chaired the new facility’s campaign committee, which raised more than $18 million in private support for the project.
“Despite challenges along the way, including a global pandemic, he ardently believed a major new science center would be transformative for the region, and especially for the youth and families in the neighborhoods surrounding this site,” Erickson said.
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