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Kris
April 3rd, 2004, 07:53 AM
April 3, 2004

Expansion Planned for Science Center in Liberty State Park

By RONALD SMOTHERS

NEWARK, April 2 - Noting that the Liberty Science Center has outgrown its current building in Liberty State Park, the center's board said Friday that it would restructure the existing space and add a wing that would expand the center by about 50 percent.

The addition of some 100,000 square feet to the current 196,000 square feet will require closing the building to the public by early next year. The center will set up a much smaller, temporary exhibit space in the newly renovated Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, a historic building in a part of the park near Ellis Island, and will take its displays to street fairs, schools and malls, said Robert J. Dougherty Jr., the chairman of the center's board.

Arthur F. Weinbach, the chairman and chief executive of Automatic Data Processing and a member of the science center's advisory council, said that instead of being less visible while its building is closed for the reconstruction, the center would touch even more people.

The cost of the expansion, reported Friday in The Star-Ledger of Newark, is $104 million. The project was announced at a ceremony attended by four former New Jersey governors who helped build and sustain the center since ground was broken for the current building in 1989. They were Brendan T. Byrne, Thomas H. Kean, James J. Florio and Christie Whitman. Gov. James E. McGreevey, in a written statement, hailed the expansion of the center, to be completed in 2007, and its outreach to schools and educators as an investment in "a vital resource."

In recent years, according to the center's staff, that resource, situated in the vastness of the 1,212- acre state park, has been hard pressed and overbooked in its effort to accommodate its 700,000 visitors a year. The center occasionally had to turn away school groups seeking to schedule visits. About one-third of its annual budget comes from state sources under a contract to provide science education services to the 180,000 students in the state's poorest districts.

The reconstruction and the new wing will be financed by $89 million in state Economic Development Authority bonds and $27 million in private, foundation and corporate funds raised by the center.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company