In the past couple of weeks, the Times has talked about the possibility of the State Board of Education evicting regional science museum Sci-Quest out of its leased space in the back of the Calhoun Community College to make way for an expansion of the school, instead of using unoccupied space in the building. While this might sound stupid (and would delay the Calhoun project further), it does bring back the idea that Sci-Quest should move downtown to a more visible location. A couple of years ago, several properties in the center city, including the old Hale Brothers Furniture building on Washington, were mentioned as possibilities, and then-congressman Bud Cramer even appropriated federal funding for the relocation. And then it died.
This recession's got me bored. So the (possible) renewed interest in the idea got me thinking... How about a Museum District downtown? I like Atlanta's example, where the major museums/attractions-- Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta Children's Museum, along with the Georgia Dome, CNN, Philips Arena, and a couple of hotels-- are clustered around Centennial Park (cool website, another thing Huntsville should look into). Putting it into a Huntsville perspective, that could be Sci-Quest along with the Museum of Art, Early Works, Constitution Village, and the VBC within a few blocks of Big Spring Park.
I've been looking for an excuse to use this updated vertical aerial image, courtesy of Marty Sellers/Sellers Photo:
A couple of possibilities exist in this area for a new Sci-Quest, but my favorite is the city parking garage across from city hall. There are plans to tear it down and rebuild it. A portion of the new garage--say, the south end across from EarlyWorks-- could be built for Sci-Quest, along with some space near the square for retail and restaurants. The pros of this location: City-owned land (cheap lease, similar to $1/year the museum has at Calhoun), unlimited height limit, good visibility from Courthouse Square and Big Spring Park. Cons: It's a parking garage, little expansion opportunity. Another place that has similar pros and cons is the old Fire Station #1, part of the municipal complex on Church. The other red square on the map is a Regions bank branch that I think is a total waste of land, but not a good place for Sci-Quest; sorry about that.
But, of course, these aren't the only options. There are quite a few good places in the north and west parts of downtown, especially near the Depot and the VBC, where Sci-Quest would do well downtown without being clustered with the other museums.