Mokupapapa Center’s New Home is Koehnen Building
by Dave Smith
A federal agency said it has found a new and much larger home for the Mokupapapa Discovery Center.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the center will reopen this summer on the first floor of the Koehnen Building, located several blocks from its previous site in downtown Hilo.
The center showcases the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which consists of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment. The center closed its previous location on Kamehameha Avenue last month in preparation for the move.
Mokupapapa has hosted more than 60,000 visitors per year including school groups, community groups, local residents and tourists.
NOAA officials said more than a half a million people have walked through the doors of the center’s previous home, a relatively modest 4,000-square-foot facility developed a decade ago.
In addition to student visitations during the academic year, Mokupapapa offers a week-long summer course to 7,000 students each summer.
NOAA officials said since most people will never have the opportunity to visit these remote islands, the center was conceived to “bring the place to the people” and spur greater public awareness of the region and ocean conservation issues more generally.
Its new home will have much more room for displays and interactive exhibits, Andy Collins, the monument’s education coordinator, said in a statement issued by NOAA today.
“With five times more space, we envision creating an education complex that will feature an expanded Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, classroom space, a theater and a training center to host workshops with partners from near and far,” he said.
“Mokupāpapa has exceeded every expectation we have had for it over the past 10 years. With the expansion of facilities and programs, we foresee even greater numbers of visitors and opportunities for new partnerships and outreach,” Collins said.
Koehnen’s Interiors closed its doors in December, saying that there were no family members to take over the business.
Company president Fred Koehnen said his family wanted to “give back to the community” and 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. “Mokupapapa has been a positive influence in downtown Hilo and we are excited about future possibilities.”