As Gull Wings Children’s Museum closes its doors and searches for a new space in Oxnard, a new children’s museum is taking shape in Santa Barbara.
Gull Wings closed on Jan. 10 after 28 years at its 4th Street location because of an aging building and a drop in attendance, museum officials said.
The city offered the 6,000-square-foot facility virtually rent free. The sole children’s museum in Ventura County, which was founded by a group of local parents in 1986 and served about around 30,000 visitors a year, is now looking for a new space.
In the meantime, families must look elsewhere for story time, arts and crafts, music enrichment and science programs.
“The board has agreed that our current facility has stagnated progress,” the nonprofit wrote on its website. “The museum plans to develop mobile programs, a possible temporary location and a continuing website and social media presence.”
Across county lines in Santa Barbara, the MOXI The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation is beginning to take shape along with the surrounding development along Lower State Street, like the massive La Entrada project.
“The whole place will be completely transformed,” MOXI CEO Steve Hinkley told the Business Times. “What once wasn’t a highly trafficked corridor will become a very vibrant bridge connecting the waterfront to downtown.”
The 25,000-square-foot museum will feature a smart classroom, a new media theater and a rooftop sky garden, which will be available for private events. There are plans for more than 70 hands-on exhibits focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Its core focus will be on the kids, but the museum will aim to incorporate the whole family, Hinkley said.
“We want to create an opportunity for kids who want to go into math and science,” he said. “They need a spark to be inspired but also need to know that they can do that professionally. We are raising the next culture of problem solvers, who are faced with huge problems around energy, transportation, food and water.”
It plans to extend its reach about 100 miles north and south of Santa Barbara through marketing initiatives and bringing the programs to the community via a mobile platform, Hinkley said.
MOXI is backed by “Law & Order” creator and Montecito resident Dick Wolf and his wife Noelle, who aim to offset schools’ poor math and science education.
The museum, which was designed by late Santa Barbara architect Barry Berkus and carried on by AB Design Studio, plans to open late this year at 125 State St. with 20 to 25 employees.
MOXI has raised $19.4 million of its $25 million fundraising goal.
Banking on new digs
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is looking to leave its Goleta location for a more accommodating space.
The food bank supplies more than 300 Santa Barbara County nonprofits with food and distributes close to 10 million pounds of food annually. It feeds more than 100,000 people each year, including families, seniors, homeless, children and organizations in need, CEO Erik Talkin said.
“People have work but often don’t have enough to support families,” he told the Business Times. “Seniors on a fixed income are not pulling in enough money to pay for medical bills and transportation. There are a lot of food-insecure people.”
The nonprofit has had to turn away about 2.2 million pounds of food a year from its Santa Barbara location, which is too small and doesn’t have a loading dock, Talkin said.
“Ideally, we’d like to take over an existing space,” he said.
The food bank leases a remodeled fire station at 4554 Hollister Ave. from the Santa Barbara County for $1 a year, but zoning restrictions prevent it from making any improvements.
It is looking for land, with or without a structure, that is zoned industrial or commercial with at least 1.5 acres or 25,000 square feet of warehouse space.
But industrial space is hard to come by on the South Coast.
As of the third quarter of 2015, there was a 0.3 percent industrial vacancy in Santa Barbara, 5.3 percent in Goleta and 3.8 percent in Carpinteria, according to Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments.
Direct Relief is also planning to move into a larger warehouse, from 27 S. Patera Lane in Goleta to a larger parcel formerly owned by the Santa Barbara Airport. The food bank asked Direct Relief if it could move into its old space or share its new location, but had no luck, Talkin said.
“We are not just another agency serving food,” he said. “We have a significant disaster relief function and serve more than 300 nonprofits. We would be the main distributor of government food coming into the region.”
• Contact Alex Kacik at [email protected]