Environmental Learning Center prepares for spring grand re-opening

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — As reconstruction continues on the main education lab at the Environmental Learning Center, employees are working on plans for a springtime grand re-opening.

“Everything is going extremely well,” Executive Director Holly Dill said, noting that construction is on schedule and on budget.

The $1.7 million project includes the cost of rebuilding the center’s primary exhibition space, the exhibits and educational equipment destroyed in a thunderstorm-related fire in June 2008.

“It was a tremendous loss,” Dill said, adding the Environmental Learning Center was lucky to have lost just one building and not more.

Solar panels were installed this week to the roof of the new building that will help provide power to the ELC, Dill said. Solar panels will also be used to heat water at the site.

The work is being done in accordance with green construction standards. And while it has made the project more expensive, Dill said, she believes it will be worth it in the long run by saving on energy costs.

“This has definitely been a difficult, trying time,” Dill said of operating without the use of the building. But “we’re now seeing the silver lining.”

It has been about a year and a half since the fire that claimed the building. And the facility is only now getting close to finishing the reconstruction due to funding and reconfiguring the building’s use, according to Dill.

“We had to get over the shock of it all,” she said when the fire destroyed the building. Then they had to decide what they were going to do.

ELC leaders decided to modify the building, reconfiguring its uses and making it more efficient. Between June 2008 and July 2009, the center’s officials worked with Clemens Bruns Schaub Architect and Associates, of Vero Beach, to craft a new plan. The firm is providing its services free to the ELC, Dill said.

The center broke ground on its reconstruction in July and is expected to be done by mid to late April.

The ELC will keep its Web site, www.DiscoverELC.org, updated with the grand openings details as they become available.

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