Renovation Project Begins at Oh Wow

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Work has begun on a $4 million project that will redesign Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology.

Construction crews first entered the downtown attraction two weeks ago, with work getting into full swing Monday. The science and technology center has been closed since March because of the pandemic. It is scheduled to reopen May 15.

One main aspect of the renovation is to reorient the entrance so that it is on the pedestrian plaza on Market Street. Currently, the entrance is on West Federal Street.

“We’ve always had the idea that people will feel safer [entering on Market Street], because it’s less of a bottleneck,” said Ralf Urbach, director of education.

Children arriving on school buses have always been guided inside through an existing back-door entrance on Market Street.

“You can’t drop off children [on the Federal Street side] because it’s too dangerous,” Urbach said.

The project will also redesign the exhibit area on the ground level and refresh the décor, according to Suzanne Barbati, president and executive director.

The lower level will continue to house the production area and some exhibit space. The administrative offices will be moved to unused space on the second floor. The offices of CityScape are already on the second floor, and will remain there.

The grand reopening will feature three new exhibits, including a sensory sensitive room, a mental health exhibit and a microelectronics exhibit. The latter exhibit is in partnership with Youngstown State University and is part of an effort to increase the number of digital design engineers with microelectronics expertise, a need which the U.S. Air Force says is not being met, according to Barbati. It is funded by a federal grant.

Phases two and three of the renovation project call for constructing a driveway in front of the entrance where buses can park to drop off children. It will be similar to the drop-off lane in front of the Doubletree Hotel, which is also on Central Square, Urbach said.

The Oh Wow! children’s center is located in the former McCrory’s building. The museum purchased it from First National Bank in 2019.

Pictured: Workers clear out what will become the entrance area of the Oh Wow! center in downtown Youngstown. The doors at rear face Market Street.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.