The Children’s Discovery Museum, long a fixture for Augusta-area families with young children, is moving to downtown Waterville.

The decision comes after nearly a year of research by museum officials, who viewed a number of presentations and went on a number of site tours.

The new location is expected to make the museum part of Waterville’s extensive revitalization effort, funded by investments by Colby College in partnership with investors and developers to draw more people to live, work and visit the city.

A number of details have yet to be worked out, but the plan is for construction of the museum’s new space to begin in 2017 with an expected 2018 opening. During that time, the museum would remain open in Augusta.

“We think this is our best option to serve both communities,” Amarinda Keys, executive director for the museum said Thursday.

The museum has drawn families from across central Maine, including from Waterville, to its current location on Capitol Street, west of the State House, where the idea for the museum took root more than 30 years ago.

The Children’s Discovery Museum, which provides opportunities for hands-on learning through play for children ages 6 months to 8 years, started in 1984. Its website recounts its history, first as an idea incorporated in the State House that started out as a series of traveling exhibits and then as a facility with a permanent address on Water Street starting in 1992. A series of expansions for both exhibits and office space took place over the next eight years, funded in part by a 1995 capital campaign. In 2007, after a year-long renovation that closed the museum, it reopened its modernized facility. Two years later, the museum moved to its current location on Capitol Avenue.

“There’s no hard feelings, and we wish them well,” Augusta Mayor David Rollins said Thursday. “It’s puzzling to me why Waterville doesn’t open its own children’s museum. I guess it’s a free country, and people can vote to do what they want.”

The museum’s planned exit opens up opportunities for the city to develop special programs for children, but those discussions are in the early stages, Rollins said, and he has no details yet. Rollins said Augusta city officials had reached out to the museum board to understand the nature of the move and what city officials could do to persuade the museum to stay.

“As I look at the board, it seems to me there are more people not from Augusta on the board than are from the city of Augusta,” he said. “I think they felt their program opportunities would be better up there.”

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro said he knows the conversation has been going on a long time, and he’s excited to hear the news.

“If you had talked to me a year and a half ago, there were a lot more skeptics,” Isgro said. “Now we have a better track record.”

Exactly one year ago, Colby College President David Greene detailed his vision for downtown Waterville that included students living in downtown apartments and contributing to life in the city.

In addition to the city’s assets that include the Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema, the hospitals, colleges and the Colby Museum of Art, art galleries, new retail stores and restaurants would be a part of the revitalized Waterville. College students and faculty members would live downtown. Traffic would move more slowly through downtown, and perhaps sidewalks would be made wider to afford shoppers and diners the leisure of spending time outside on the streets.

The college has bought land and a number of downtown buildings, with plans to renovate some and replace others with new construction. Demolition of four buildings started in July.

In addition to Colby’s investments, several investors have bought other buildings in downtown Waterville with plans to renovate.

“When there is a lot of commercial investment in any market, it creates a lot of interest,” Isgro said, “When you look at Waterville, and the services we offer and the educational network we’re building, the Children’s Discovery Museum is a good fit.”

Megan Bourque, president the museum board said in a news release Thursday that the possibilities for collaboration are endless.

“We are excited to create a larger educational space for the Kennebec Valley community,” she said.

The Children’s Discovery Museum will continue to raise money to operate the Augusta facility until it opens in Waterville.

Keys said she hopes the community will be excited for this new opportunity.

“We still have a lot of great work to be done during our remaining time in Augusta, and we look forward to continued support throughout the transition and beyond,” she said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

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Twitter: @JLowellKJ