The Mokupapapa Discovery Center in downtown Hilo is moving into the vacant former Koehnen’s furniture store. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the Discovery Center, announced the move in a press release on Wednesday.
The move is the first step in expanding the Discovery Center, which provides educational programming about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment, the release said.
“With five times more space, we envision creating an education complex that will feature an expanded Mokupapapa Discovery Center, classroom space, a theater and a training center to host workshops with partners from near and far,” said Andy Collins, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument education coordinator.
Mokupapapa, at 308 Kamehameha Ave., opened in 2003 in downtown Hilo and hosts more than 60,000 visitors per year.
Fred Koehnen, company president and a second generation Hilo resident, said his family believes in the potential of a new and expanded discovery center.
“Conservation and education are important to the future, and that is why we are working with NOAA to make this happen,” Koehnen said.
NOAA plans to re-open the exhibits on the first floor of the Koehnen Building this summer, which coincides with the 10th year anniversary of Mokupapapa.