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Discovery Museum location narrowed

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The former Stephens City school is one site under consideration for the new home of the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. J.R. Williams/Daily

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City building, former school among sites being considered for facility

By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Just two sites remain under consideration for the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum's new home.

The old Stephens City school, at 5516 Main St., and an existing building in Winchester are both "very promising" locations, said Phil Glaize, chairman of the museum's board of directors.

A decision could come soon.

"Hopefully within a couple of months, within six to eight weeks, we'll have all the I's dotted and T's crossed to know where the Discovery Museum will be expanding," he said Tuesday.

Citing ongoing discussions, Glaize would not identify the location of the city site, but verified that the old school, built in 1916, was still an option.

The Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall attraction has been searching for a new home since July, when the Winchester City Council voted to block development by the museum of a 3.5-acre site in Jim Barnett Park after months of public debate.

That state-of-the-art facility, estimated to cost $8 million, had a completed design that included special considerations to achieve the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification level.

"Whether any of those plans will be able to be adapted to a new location, that remains to be seen based on where we go," Glaize said, adding that the museum was still interested in pursuing LEED status as an environmentally friendly operation.

City and town officials both say they would welcome the new building.

Jim Deskins, Winchester's economic development director, called the Discovery Museum's current presence on the walking mall a "mutually beneficial" one.

"We encourage them to stay," he said. "They're a great asset to the community. They bring a lot of attention to the community. It's a wonderful thing for the kids, and it would be great to have them here."

Stephens City Town Manager Mike Kehoe said the town has offered the school, which has been planned as a transportation museum for years and has had a recent face-lift: Its windows, long boarded up, have been repaired.

"The town would support it," Kehoe said.

"We think we have the best location."

Glaize credited museum staff for bolstering programming and increasing visitors while the list of possibilities has whittled down.

"We have been quite active," he said. "In addition to continuing to [find] a place to expand, we've turned our focus in the last nine months to looking at the operations of the museum and the product that the museum delivers."

Meanwhile, this year marks the museum's 15th anniversary, and an event is planned for Sunday to mark the occasion. It's being held at Newtown Commons in Stephens City -- a location museum officials say isn't connected to the search for a new site.

Among the activities planned are a poetry slam, theater performance, magician and appearances by the Cat in the Hat; the author of the "Chicken Butt" book series, Erica Perl; and city author Carolyn Wolfe.

Admission is $3 per person or $10 for a family of four.

Festivities last from 1 to 5 p.m.

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