The switch is flipped ‘on’ for Powerhouse Science Center for K-12 on river front

City Council okays plan that will start construction next year on iconic PG&E building.

The Sacramento City Council last night approved funding and leases that will kick start the transformation of the shuttered PG&E power plant into a regional science center for children and adults.

Groundbreaking is expected in the summer of 2018. The plan is for doors to be open by the start of school in 2020.

“After years of fits and starts the Powerhouse Science Center is finally set to break ground next year.

The City’s investment means that generations of children can be inspired by science and technology to become scientists, engineers, and the inventors of the future,” said Councilmember Steve Hansen, whose district includes the project.

It will be the first completed riverfront project north of Old Sacramento and will connect with the new I Street Bridge project and the Railyards’ riverfront development.

“The Powerhouse Science Center will be a linchpin in developing the Sacramento riverfront and save an iconic building that is part of Sacramento’s history.

It will also provide much needed science education for the children in our region,” said Rachel Hazlewood, Senior Project Manager in the Office of Economic Development and Innovation.

The project’s cost is estimated at $48.3 million, which is projected to create 223 direct jobs and 130 indirect jobs. It will provide science, technology, engineering, and math education to an estimated 150,000 school children each year. The City is contributing $1 million annually in the form of rent.

Interior views of the PG&E Powerhouse building, circa April, 2016

The annual contribution from the City will come from the Innovation and Growth Fund, $400,000, and the General Fund, $600,000. The General Fund will be back-filled from any eligible surplus in Transient Occupancy Tax revenues.

The Powerhouse Science Center project team comprised of staff from the Center, City, and Sacramento County Office of Education worked rapidly to get the plan to City leaders before the Council’s year-end recess. That’s because a federal tax credit program which results in a low interest rate is slated to be eliminated in the federal budget just approved last night by Congress.

The City will lease the site back to the Center for 30 years under a lease that requires the Powerhouse Science Center to construct and operate the new Center. The City will continue to own the 105-year-old renovated power station along with the new addition to the building, and the exterior improvements.

An estimated $283,000 and $375,000 annually in sales tax and Transient Occupancy Tax revenues generated by visitors to the new science center will be returned to City coffers.

The City of Sacramento and the Center team have been working since 2007 to relocate the existing science center from its 10,000-square-foot facility at 3615 Auburn Boulevard to the historic, shuttered electric facility.


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