Interactive Neighborhood for Kids is moving from Gainesville to Oakwood with a building to be nearly twice as big as its current location.
The $4.3 million building for the interactive children’s museum will be at the corner of Main Street and McClure Drive, which is set for a realignment as part of Oakwood’s plan to transform its downtown area. The city owns 27 acres between railroad tracks running parallel to Railroad Street and Flat Creek Road. Plans for development include adding a farmer’s market pavilion, storefronts and a railroad viewing platform that will be near INK’s facility.
The new INK building would be 50,000 square feet, almost twice as big as its current location, said Mandy Volpe, INK’s executive director. The new building will have more space for exhibits including a pottery studio and kiln room for ceramics, a gift shop, a cafe for on-site dining and a helicopter structure at its front entrance to pair with INK’s GrandPappy Airlines plane, which will be moving to the new location.
The new building will also feature a kitchen for kids, a Publix-branded grocery store and dedicated birthday party rooms. The current INK museum will stay in operation until the move is complete.
“We’ll have a hands-on kitchen where kids will learn how to cook for their families,” Volpe said. “Their families can learn about healthy habits, things like that. It’ll be a full kitchen, but on a kid’s level.”
The building will be built near Oakwood’s downtown train tracks and feature a “much larger much more intense” train table than the current location’s.
INK had been planning a move to South Hall for some time, even as early as 2014. B.R. White, the city’s current city manager, said they started discussions with Oakwood about three years ago, when Stan Hunt was still the city manager.
Before deciding on Oakwood, Volpe said that INK considered a location in Buford.
“Our current location is great for where we are, but we need a permanent place that we can build out and truly create exhibits that inspire the next generation of learners,” she said.
They were looking for a location that would attract tourism and students from several different school systems, such as Hall County and Gwinnett County’s districts, Volpe said. The new building will focus more on STEM-related teaching, Volpe said, as well as undervalued jobs and careers.
“You have great community helpers like firefighters and police officers, and people like that, but you also have the people that are working in the factories and making sure that we have milk coming from the cows to the grocery store,” she said.
The project will also include a roundabout in front of the building as a “traffic calming device,” White said, because there will be more pedestrian traffic there. A road to be built off of Main Street and McClure Drive after realignment will feed into the roundabout, White said.
There will likely be a groundbreaking ceremony in early 2022, White said, but they don’t expect to “move dirt” until next August though there is still some engineering to finalize yet. The building will take nine months to construct once that process starts, Volpe said.