Boonshoft to close Springfield mall location

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield announced Friday it will close its location at the Upper Valley Mall next month, citing declining attendance numbers.

The museum’s final day will be April 30.

The 20,000-square-foot museum has occupied space in the former Elder-Beerman store at the mall since November of 2013. Attendance has dropped about 20 percent over the last year, said Mark Meister, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton Society of Natural History, which operates the Springfield museum.

Several major stores have left the mall in recent years, including JC Penney and Macy’s last year. The mall was sold to a Pennsylvania-based company last year for $2.65 million.

The museum reached its goal of 25,000 visitors per year in 2014, but saw about 20,000 in attendance last year, Meister said.

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“It just wasn’t viable to continue to operate there,” Meister said. “The mall just seems to be declining.”

Upper Valley Mall management could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The museum is considering other locations in Springfield, Meister said. Earlier this year, the museum and the city of Springfield agreed to a lease option for the former Myers Market building at 101 S. Fountain Ave. The option gives Boonshoft until July 31 to decide it wants to rent and renovate the property.

“We’re going to spend our energies on seeing if we can get to the point to exercise that option by the July 31 deadline,” Meister said.

The museum must raise about $4 million to make the move, including $2 million in renovations and $2 million in endowment money to continue museum operations in the future, Meister said.

The organization has been in discussions with funding sources in Springfield, Meister said, but is in the early stages of the process.

“The prospect of moving into the growing cultural center of downtown, surrounded by the Heritage Center of Clark County, the Clark State Performing Arts Center and the downtown library, is very exciting,” Meister said.

Meister was disappointed the organization couldn’t transition from the mall location into the new downtown space without a gap, he said. The museum opened a 4,000-square-foot satellite location at the mall in March of 2013 before expanding into a much larger space later that year.

If the fundraising efforts are successful, the museum could begin construction in early 2017 once United Senior Services leaves the building. Conceptual plans are already in place by the organization’s architect, Meister said, and the museum could possibly re-open in either late 2017 or early 2018.

“We’re very committed to Springfield,” Meister said. “We’ve enjoyed our time here.”

Members will be able to use their memberships at three others Boonshoft locations, including the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Dayton, the SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park and the Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve.

If the Springfield museum re-opens in another location, memberships will restart with the amount of time remaining on their current membership, Meister said.

“For whatever period of time there would be between when we close and when the new membership would begin, we’ll give them that time back again,” Meister said. “They’ll get that bonus once we re-open in Springfield.”

Courtney Barrett takes her three children – ages 6, 4 and 18 months – to the museum about once a week, she said. They’ve had a membership for about three years.

“It gives my kids a way to burn energy and explore,” Barrett said.

The Upper Valley Mall location is much smaller that the Dayton site.

“My kids could just run around and not get lost,” she said.

While she’s happy the museum may re-open downtown, she’s disappointed it could take so long for the renovation to be completed.

“I’m not looking forward to having to drive to Dayton,” Barrett said.

She was happy to hear about the extended time for Springfield memberships.

“It’s nice to know we’re going to get what we paid for,” Barrett said.

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