The Long Island Science Center, a learning museum with an exciting selection of hands-on, science-based programs and exhibits, opened a new pop-up location on Saturday, December 11. On Wednesday, December 22 at 11 a.m., the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and other officials will gather to celebrate this addition to the local community with a special ribbon cutting ceremony marking the temporary space’s official grand opening until while work continues on the museum’s permanent location at 111 E. Main Street in Downtown Riverhead.
Now located at Riverhead’s Tanger shopping center (401 Tanger Mall Drive), the LI Science Center (LISC) pop-up offers a taste of what will be available at the completed museum.
“We want the community to know we are open for business!” LISC Executive Director Cailin Kaller says, describing what kids will get to experience. “Our new space hosts drone racing, augmented reality/virtual reality exhibits, robotic exhibits,” Kaller continues, pointing out that it’s all available seven days a week from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. for families during holiday and post-holiday shopping at Tanger Outlets.
The Science Center is undertaking a $15 million expansion and redevelopment of the 20-years-vacant former Swezey’s Department Store building in a coordinated collaboration with Riverhead Town to revitalize the historic downtown business district and create an iconic Town Square as a regional attraction along the Peconic River.
LISC’s new, 24,000-square-foot building will feature more than 6,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition space, four classrooms, and a ground floor MakerSpace where youths and adults can build and create, and learn to use state-of-the-art equipment, as well as a full wood shop, that will help make ideas possible.
LISC was originally located at 11 West Main Street in Riverhead before it moved to Rocky Point in 2016. The museum returned to Riverhead in 2019, opening at 40 Peconic Avenue, but the space was unforgiving when it came to social distancing and closed in March of 2020 as the pandemic kicked in. The Tanger pop-up is the next phase before LISC is fully realized in Downtown Riverhead.
Last week, NY State Assemblyman Fred Thiele announced that the museum had received a $1.12 million NY State grant through the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative to support construction of the new space, including a rooftop planetarium/lecture hall, functional agritech and energy exhibits, and the “inventorium” MakerSpace — all contributing to Long Island’s economy through family based regional tourism.
Kaller, who left Guild Hall to join LISC in 2019, has been tasked with expanding the vision to match the growing opportunities that came with the museum becoming part of Riverhead’s Town Square project, and making that vision a reality. With the new grant, “this is becoming concrete,” she says, pointing out that LISC must now wait for the Riverhead Town Square bidding and planning process to catch up before construction can begin. “We’re excited — we’re ready to go,” Kaller adds.
“I am very pleased the LI Science Center has set up a temporarily location at Tanger Mall, while the design and construction of their new, permanent location on the Riverhead Town Square, comes to fruition,” Aguiar says. “The LISC is a vital community institution providing a launchpad for children to learn and explore the STEM fields. I am glad this temporary location will ensure there is no disruption in opportunities for our children to learn.”
Learn more about Long Island Science Center and their programs at sciencecenterli.org.