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BALTIMORE, MD-Plans for the long anticipated $40-million expansion of the Maryland Science Center have taken a leap forward with the city Planning Commission’s recent approval of the property’s re-subdivision. Construction, spearheaded by Whiting Turner Contracting Company, is now scheduled to get underway later this month or early November in preparation for a 2004 debut.

MSC’s construction plans center on the development of a new 40,000-sf space that would house the center’s Earth Sciences and Dinosaur Hall, as well as a Health and Human Body exhibit. Local firm Design Collective Inc. is behind the development’s look. The project also allows for major renovations to the existing four-story structure at 601 Light Street, which–at 24-years-old and 77,000 sf–has been stretched beyond its limits in an effort to accommodate the center’s consistent growth. In updating patrons on the capital campaign to fund the development, MSC officials described the current structure as “bursting at the seams.” County records assess the 3.4-acre, Inner Harbor area property at about $21 million.

In addition to funds raised from its capital campaign, MSC will also benefit from grants made by local government such as a $1.5 million bond proposed by the Baltimore City Council. The development is a coveted project among city officials. Upon completion of the new exhibit space, MSC is expected to see more than a 50% increase in annual visitors from its current number of about 600,000. “The city is supportive of the Science Center’s expansion,” Baltimore Planning Department chief of current planning Susan Williams tells GlobeSt.com. “It has long been an attraction in the city for visitors and residents and we look forward to providing more expanded services to the city.”

Speaking to GlobeSt.com, MSC spokesperson Christine A. Rowett says the center officials “are sure this growth will have a major, positive impact on tourist travel and the thousands of students who visit the Science center each year.” She adds, “it is our goal to provide hands-on science to all ages and we know from research that so many of our visitors are fascinated with dinosaurs and the history of our Earth.”

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