Business & Real Estate

Powerhouse Science Center begins construction, with museum slated for 2021 opening

Construction is underway at the Powerhouse Science Center, a $50 million project slated for an early 2021 opening along the banks of the Sacramento River.

Powerhouse Interim Executive Director Michael Galane said Wednesday that building renovation began recently, and construction is currently on pace to finish by end of 2020.

“We’ll be open most likely in very early 2021,” Galane said, adding it would take a month or two after construction finishes to open the museum.

Galane noted the difficulties presented by the project, which is turning a 100-year-old PG&E powerhouse along the river into a science museum.

“It’s not only substantial in terms of dollars, but in terms of construction challenges,” he said. “... this was a power house before – literally, with turbines in it, smokestacks and so on. And turning that into a building that holds exhibits and office areas is different (from a new building). It’s rebuilding the walls and the rooftop, and so on and so forth. But basically, everything inside that structure has changed.”

A steel “exostructure” has been placed around the walls, which will keep the concrete and masonry building standing and hold up the current walls, Galane said.

In the next few weeks, removal of the roof and part of the building’s structure will require what Galane called “state-of-the-art robotics technology.” He called it a spectacle worth watching.

“The fact that it’s a science center and we’re going to be using some state-of-the-art technology to get it done is significant,” he said.

The Powerhouse renovation project was approved last year after receiving a healthy $30 million subsidy by the city. It will turn the abandoned power station on Jibboom Street into a museum with more than 20,000 square feet of exhibit space and an accompanying park.

When finished, the science center will include a planetarium, with its dome visible from Interstate 5.

“It will become, we believe, an iconic structure,” Galane said.