The Children’s Discovery Museum, an Augusta fixture for families with young children, is moving to downtown Waterville.

The decision comes after nearly a year of research by museum officials, who viewed a number of presentations and went on a number of site tours.

The new location is expected to make the museum part of Waterville’s revitalization effort to draw more people to live, work and visit the city, funded by Colby College in partnership with investors and developers.

A number of details have yet to be worked out, but the plan is to begin construction of the museum’s new space in 2017 with an expected opening in 2018. During that time, the museum would remain open in Augusta.

“We think this is our best option to serve both communities,” Amarinda Keys, the museum’s executive director, said Thursday.

The Children’s Discovery Museum, which provides opportunities for hands-on learning through play for children ages 6 months to 8 years old, started as a series of traveling exhibits in 1984. Its first physical home was established on Water Street in 1992. A series of expansions took place over the next several years, and in 2007, after a yearlong renovation, it reopened its modernized facility. Two years later, the museum moved to its current location on Capitol Street.

Augusta Mayor David Rollins said city officials reached out to the museum board to understand the nature of the move and what they could do to persuade the museum to stay.

“As I look at the board, it seems to me there are more people not from Augusta on the board than are from the city of Augusta,” he said. “I think they felt their program opportunities would be better up there.

“There’s no hard feelings, and we wish them well.”

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro said he knows the conversation has been going on a long time, and he’s excited to hear the news.

“If you had talked to me a year and a half ago, there were a lot more skeptics,” Isgro said. “Now we have a better track record.”

Last fall, Colby College President David Greene detailed a vision for downtown Waterville that included students living in downtown apartments and contributing to life in the city.

Art galleries, new retail stores and restaurants would be a part of the revitalized Waterville, joining the city’s existing assets, which include the Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema, the hospitals, colleges and the Colby College Museum of Art. College students and faculty members would live downtown. Traffic would move more slowly through downtown, and perhaps sidewalks would be made wider to afford shoppers and diners the leisure of spending time outside on the streets.

The college has bought land and a number of downtown buildings, with plans to renovate some and replace others with new construction. Demolition of four buildings started in July.

In addition to Colby’s investments, several developers have purchased other buildings downtown and hope to renovate.

“When there is a lot of commercial investment in any market, it creates a lot of interest,” Isgro said, “When you look at Waterville and the services we offer and the educational network we’re building, the Children’s Discovery Museum is a good fit.”

Megan Bourque, president of the museum board, said in a news release Thursday that the possibilities for collaboration are endless.

“We are excited to create a larger educational space for the Kennebec Valley community,” she said.

The Children’s Discovery Museum will continue to raise money to operate the Augusta facility until it opens in Waterville.

Keys said she hopes the community will be excited about this new opportunity.

“We still have a lot of great work to be done during our remaining time in Augusta,” she said.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

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