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The Children’s Museum of Denver, which is toured by 250,000 children annually, has completed a $2.5 million renovation – the biggest since it opened 17 years ago in the Lower Platte Valley.

“When we moved here in 1983, we were pioneers,” Wendy Holmes, spokeswoman for the 9,000-sf museum, told GlobeSt.com. Today, its neighbors include the one-year-old Colorado’s Ocean Journey, a $100 million aquarium; an REI sporting goods store housed in a renovated transportation museum; Elitch’s, a Six Flags Amusement Park; and the Pepsi Center, the new home of the Denver Nuggets basketball team and Colorado Avalanche, Denver’s hockey team. The museum is positioned on three acres along Water St.

The museum’s 3,700-sf renovation of the 9,000-sf facility, which sits on three acres along Water St., reflects its mission to better serve younger children, setting up interactive playscapes as a result of recommendations from the White Oak Associates in Marblehead, MA., which completed its study three years ago for the Denver museum.

“The bottom line is that we found out that by servicing the newborns to eight year olds, it would secure our future, as well as serve an unmet need in the community,” says Holmes.Most playscapes previously targeted children from four to 13 years old. The center includes child-oriented, thematic play areas for enhancing large motor skills while providing hands-on exhibits to stimulate sensory awareness, develop language skills and support cognitive development and social and emotional growth.

“They’re permanent and educational, master-planned playscapes focused on the essential learning experiences,” explains Holmes. The renovation includes a new lobby, new room for birthdays and meetings, new heating and cooling system and new restaurant, the Hungry Tummy.

“We went in and completely gutted the entire space,” Holmes says. “It went from being a design on the board to what it is today. It was only a vision three years ago.” The changes should allow it to at least maintain – and possibly increase – the number of children attracted each year, she says. “We’re not only competing with discretionary income, but discretionary time,” Holmes told GlobeSt.com. Admission, which varies by age, ranges from $3.50 to $6.50 apiece.

The center now features four main areas: The Pond, Meadow, Grove and Village, each connected by a carpet designed to portray a gently flowing stream. An adjoining Parent Resource Center offers Internet-accessible computers, parenting periodicals and reading space.

Holmes says the center has turned around a financial deficit in the past three years. “When Pat Cooper was named executive director years ago, she inherited a museum that couldn’t make payroll,” Holmes says. “Now, we’re on the road to financial recovery.”

CG Construction of Denver has served as general contractor for the facility designed by Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, also of Denver.

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