WATERVILLE — The Children’s Discovery Museum in Augusta could find a new home in the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 7 Eustis Parkway in Waterville, if all goes according to plans.

Amarinda Keys, Children’s Museum executive director, said Monday that the organization hopes to lease space in the church building initially with a plan to eventually buy the building. The museum, located at 171 Capitol St. in Augusta, had planned to lease the American Legion hall on College Avenue, but earlier this year backed off that idea.

“It didn’t feel like a good fit for what we wanted,” Keys said. “Ownership is important to us.”

Mark Wilson, pastor of the church located at the corner of Main Street, confirmed Monday that the church hopes to lease space to the museum for a year or two and then sell the entire building to the museum.

“The church is excited to partner with the Children’s Discovery Museum to bring them to the Waterville community,” he said.

He said the 14,000-square-foot church, which has 125 members, would look for another space, if the lease and ultimate purchase of the church is feasible.

“We love the spot, but we also realize that the church, if we continue to be in that building, would find ourselves in an unsustainable situation,” Wilson said. “What I’m saying is that instead of an unsustainable church building, we’re building a sustainable church.”

The Waterville City Council on Tuesday will consider a request by the museum to refer to the Planning Board a request to rezone the church property from Residential-B to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A to allow for the museum to operate there.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Chace Community Forum in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons at 150 Main St.

The proposed condition of the contract zone would be that the only permitted uses of the property would be a children’s museum, day care center and the existing church.

If the council votes to refer the matter to the Planning Board, that board would hold a public hearing on the request and consider whether to recommend a zone change to the City Council.

The council is the only entity with authorization to make the zone change.

Meanwhile, Keys said she is not sure when the museum would move to the church from its current, 4,000-square-foot home on Capitol Street in Augusta. It has been in that spot about four years, and the museum has been in existence 26 years.

“We have a lot of work to do and a lot of money to raise,” Keys said.

Museum officials announced in December last year that the museum planned to move in 2019 to the American Legion hall at 21 College Ave., tripling its space compared with Augusta. The legion hall is about 10,000 square feet in size.

Waterville businessman Bill Mitchell bought the former legion hall in late October last year while coordinating with the museum as a cornerstone tenant. The museum has been a part of central Maine for many years and people love it, but it needed to find a level of sustainability, and part of that was obtaining a larger space in the context of a vibrant downtown, museum officials said at the time. Museum officials looked for other spaces, including in Augusta, but ultimately chose Waterville.

Emilie Knight, the museum’s community programs and relations coordinator, said at the time that Waterville is the second-most-frequent ZIP code for “visitorship” to the museum — Augusta is first — and the hope is that Augusta patrons will travel the short distance to Waterville to the museum.

Museum officials said last year that the museum will bring something unique and complementary to an already vibrant arts, culture and recreational scene in Waterville, and they look forward to collaborating with area organizations.

Keys said there is more work to do before the museum could move into the church.

“We’re hoping to buy the whole church, but there are a lot of hoops we must go through,” Keys said Monday.

“This is the option we’re exploring right now. There are a lot of moving parts to decisions like this. This one is the zoning.”

The museum last year partnered with Waterville Main Street to host the Parade of Lights and opening of Kringleville in downtown Waterville the day after Thanksgiving, and the museum is hosting the holiday events again this year.

Meanwhile, the Congregational Church on Eustis Parkway was built in 1966, but the church before that was on Temple Street for 160 years, behind where the current Colby College residential complex is now, according to Wilson, the church pastor. He said some current church members also attended the Temple Street church, which was demolished as part of urban renewal efforts many years ago.

“We plan to stay in Waterville. I want to make that clear,” Wilson said. “We’ve been in Waterville for 190 years. We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs.”

He said that while the church does not yet know where it will move, it would like to be closer to the heart of the city, and church members have faith the right place will be found.

“We assume we are being led to where we need to be and we trust that,” he said. “We’ll be looking for a place in Waterville. We’d like to be closer to the mission field.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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