Flags fluttered and blue and white balloons bobbed in front of the Columbia Federal Building at 608 E. Cherry St. on Saturday morning. A crowd gathered outside to celebrate the award of the historic building to the Health Adventure Center, which will convert the building into an interactive health science museum for youth.
“This is a great day for our city,” said Ann Cohen, president of the Health Adventure Center Board of Directors.
Sen. Kit Bond, Rep. Kenny Hulshof, Mayor Darwin Hindman and Brad Scott, U.S. General Services Administration administrator for the Heartland Region, addressed Health Adventure Center board members, the general public and members of the health care community. During the symbolic transfer of the building, Scott presented a gold-colored cardboard key.
“Actually having a building is giving us a lot of momentum,” said Lynn Hostetler, director of communications at Boone Hospital Center and a Health Adventure Center board member. “This ceremony today is really a milestone in our fund-raising process.”
The speakers at the ceremony said they hope the museum will help keep downtown vibrant and will also encourage young people to go into health care professions.
Columbia residents who were downtown on Saturday said the interactive health museum sounded like a good idea.
“Anything like that I think would be great for this town,” said Kim Watson of Columbia. She added that the Health Adventure Center would be wonderful for field trips for school kids.
Marsha Miller, who lives in Higbee, agreed. “The more things they can bring in that would interest grade school kids the better,” Miller said.
Cohen hopes the building, which started out as a post office in 1936, will once again be a place where the community can gather. First, she said, the building needs to be restored. The center, which is scheduled to open by the middle of 2005, is to include a resource library, classrooms and hands-on exhibits such as a walk-through brain.
Cohen and Tom Richards, the center’s board treasurer, said the cost of the museum is still being finalized. The organization is to take ownership of the building by the end of this year. Richards said that under General Services Administration rules, the center has 36 months after the official transfer to finish renovations and open the center.
Health Adventure was among several nonprofit organizations competing for the federal building. Other groups included the Columbia Board of Education; A Call to Serve, an aid organization assisting Columbia’s sister city in the nation of Georgia; and New Life Evangelistic Center, a homeless-aid organization. The administration had narrowed the list down to two primary applicants, the Columbia School Board and the Health Adventure Center. On July 13, the Columbia School Board voted unanimously to withdraw its application, which made the center the only applicant for the building.
The idea for the museum was the brainchild of the Boone County Medical Society Alliance and has been discussed for more than a decade, Cohen said. Columbia’s hospitals have been instrumental in providing funding for the Health Adventure Center, and Columbia residents Ira and Gail Hubbell donated $1 million to the center.