Wise Wonders Children's Museum

Kelly McCandless and her daughter Lyla, 1, play in the water exhibit on Friday at Wise Wonders Children's Museum in 2016.

A Wise Wonders Children's Museum board member has purchased the former Good Earth Market building in downtown Billings with the intent of leasing the property to the museum. 

The organization hopes to transition into the new space by the end of summer 2019. 

"We're just excited to move forward," said Wise Wonders Executive Director Kelli Toohill. 

The move has the potential to more than triple the museum's space of about 3,200 square feet at its current location at 110 N. 29th St. The Good Earth Market building at 3024 Second Ave. N. has about 9,000 square feet of floor space and another 3,000 feet of loft space, Toohill said. 

Children museum

Staff and board members of the Wise Wonders Children's Museum look over the interior of the former Good Earth Market on Tuesday. A board member is buying the building and leasing it to the museum.

In addition to the floor space, the higher ceilings will also open up new possibilities that the current Wise Wonders location restricts. 

"Like our air tube exhibit right now," Toohill said, describing how the maker had to take two feet off the top of the original just to get it to fit in the building. 

Specifics still haven't been nailed down, but museum members know generally what they want to achieve going forward. 

"We want to reach a wider audience, wider age group, wider demographic, and I think this large space is going to let us bring some pretty cool things into the forefront," said assistant director Pete Bolenbaugh.

One hope is that included among that wider audience are more children in their "teens and tweens," as Toohill put it. 

Children museum

The Wise Wonders Children's Museum is moving into the former Good Earth Market.

Toohill said she anticipates the new space will allow the museum to expand exhibits, programs, camps, field trips and museum hours. She hopes new exhibits will emphasize science, technology, engineering and math.

Some of the exhibits at the current space are transportable and will be re-installed into the new space, but plans remain ongoing as to how to fill the rest of the building. 

In addition to the increased space, Toohill said expanded parking at the new location will do much to answer the requests of museum members and visitors for more parking options.  

"We're just excited. We love being downtown," Toohill said. "We like being a little more centrally located. We didn't want to cut off any certain part of the community." 

The purchase of the property was made in early March, and a formal announcement was made Monday night at the museum's 2019 Billings Signature Chef Event fundraiser. Wise Wonders Museum is leasing its current space, so it will change leases for the move to the new building. 

The Good Earth Market co-op closed its doors in October 2017 due to declining revenue. The co-op originally began at another Billings location in 1994. 

"There are a lot of people excited to see the museum grow, but they're also excited to see this building used," Bolenbaugh said. 

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Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.