Hands On! Regional Museum seeking move to Gray Fossil Site

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- For years Hands On! Regional Museum has brought families to downtown Johnson City. Now Hands On! is pursuing an option to relocate to East Tennessee State University’s Gray Fossil site.

Hands On! Executive Director Andy Marquart said their downtown spot isn’t going to cut it long term.

“It is not a building that is made to be a museum, we don’t have ADA accessibility here, there’s no designated parking, so people are having to walk across the street with strollers, there’s no restrooms on the first floor,” Marquart said

So for the past few years the Hands On! leaders have been looking at other options, and now, “We have decided to fully pursue a collaborative effort with East Tennessee State University at the Gray Fossil Site,” Marquart said “They have 12,00 feet of available space that’s move-in ready.”

Marquart said the move would be a cost saver in the long-run.

“It basically solidifies a guarantee that Hands On! Museum will be around for years to come,” Marquart said

Johnson City Vice-Mayor and former Hands On! board member David Tomita said this move could help Johnson City and Gray.

“You’re probably, from a dollar standpoint, looking at more economic impact being out in Gray. Because that’ll help that whole corridor develop out through there,” Tomita said.

As for moving out of the Johnson City building, “I certainly don’t believe that it’s going to stall the progress in downtown Johnson City at all,” Tomita said. “It would be nice actually to put that in private hands and get some property tax out of it.”

The move would be a collaboration with ETSU.

“If I’m comfortable with the report that I receive from staff then we’ll move forward with the next step with Hands On! Everything I’ve been told, the feedback that I’ve received from the community, people like the idea of the two entities coming together, we just got to complete our homework,” ETSU President Brian Noland said.

And though nothing is set in stone Marquart said bottom line, “We just can’t continue much longer in the current facility.”

Noland said he hopes to be able to respond to the Hands On! proposition in the Spring.

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