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Museum should explore site options

Great Explorations _ the Hands-On Museum deserves a new home but not one on St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront. Museum officials want to move to The Pier temporarily while they raise $3-million to build a new facility near The Pier. Two large obstacles block the museum's path: protection of the waterfront and the tangle of traffic that could result from the museum being so close to The Pier.

Great Explorations, a children's museum with exhibits that visitors can handle, is a vital part of St. Petersburg's museum/education/arts community. At the same time, the waterfront is just about the best thing in St. Petersburg's downtown. It is nearly unblemished and can be enjoyed by all the city's residents. The city is smart to protect it. While the museum has high-quality aims, a new structure would take away a little more of the waterfront. It also would require a long-term lease to sit on city property. Approval of that lease must come first from the St. Petersburg City Council and then from voters in a referendum.

Then there is the traffic. Driving up to The Pier is difficult already. Parking is not plentiful. The difficulty will increase when Great Explorations moves into its temporary quarters on the third floor of The Pier. It would continue and maybe even get worse with a permanent location near The Pier.

Another unfortunate complication of the temporary location is that Great Explorations will lose about 2,000 feet of gallery space and all on-site classrooms when it moves from its home on Fourth Street S. Loss of classrooms is why Great Explorations says it cannot stay on the third floor of The Pier. But what if it gets stuck there? It apparently has no alternative location selected for its temporary or permanent home. What happens if the council blocks the move or the museum cannot raise the $3-million needed for the new building? This is a generous community, but many demands are placed on its giving.

Museum officials and supporters appear not to have considered all the consequences of either move. Instead they seem to be trying to force the council and voters to give them the location they want. Great Explorations deserves a new home at a prime location. It should start its search for one again.

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