After a decadelong effort to reimagine Palo Alto's Junior Museum and Zoo, city officials on Saturday celebrated the groundbreaking of a new facility for the popular Rinconada Park attraction that will reopen to the public in 2020.
Once construction is completed, the space will increase accessibility for individuals with disabilities, as well as have a more modern look and feel. The project aims to preserve "the kid-friendly and intimate qualities of the old facility," and hopes to offer more opportunities for visitors to learn and interact with exhibits, Friends of the Junior Museum and Zoo said in a press release Monday.
Aletha Coleman, president of the Friends group's board of directors, thanked several key project figures at the ceremony, including donors to the project and the city of Palo Alto, according to the press release. The nonprofit group successfully raised its target of $25 million towards the project, with the Peery Foundation pledging $15 million. The City Council unanimously supported the ambitious plan at the end of last year.
The Junior Museum and Zoo, which welcomes nearly 200,000 guests annually, provides community resources for children to learn about science and zoology. The original facility, constructed in 1941, couldn't adequately serve the museum's various early-education science programs or growing number of visitors, according to the Friends group.
Last fall, the Institute of Museum and Library Services granted the project $270,124 in federal funding, all of which support a three-year program aimed at creating and sustaining programs geared toward children with physical and developmental disabilities. The program, called "Access from the Ground Up," will include 27 new science exhibits, according to the city.
With the 18-month construction project underway, the Junior Museum and Zoo, as well as the Friends group, is in the process of moving the attraction into a temporary space at Cubberley Community Center, where the public can view exhibits. The kid-powered ball machine and giant climbing web, as well as the snake, skink and hedgehog exhibits, will also be on display at Cubberley.
John Aikin, the zoo's executive director, expects the temporary space to open to the public by July 31.