The T-Rex Science Center, located at the Southridge Centre, will close by the end of the year.
In a release, the center blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for a downturn in attendance. Like most public spaces, the science center shut down in early spring. After it reopened in late May, traffic to the center was reduced.
Building contractor Scott Breeden and his partners, who announced plans to open the center in January 2019, had counted on school field trips as part of the center’s income, but after local schools reopened this fall, none scheduled field trips.
Due to continuing concerns about the virus, the center had also struggled to retain staff and were down to a handful of volunteers. With the added safety protocols, keeping the center open was becoming more difficult.
Opening the T-Rex Science Center was the dream of Breeden, a stone mason turned dinosaur and fossil enthusiast.
Initially, the center was supposed to open in the former Purity Maid Bread Factory on Bigley Avenue, but the plan hit several snags.
Breeden said he and his investors had raised $2.5 million for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit project but needed at least that amount again to get the center running.
Finding the matching funding proved difficult, and the bread factory building required extensive repairs and improvements.
Prior to the science center, the Purity Maid building had been home to a variety of artists and musicians, including the Children’s Theatre of Charleston, which had been a tenant for years until flooding and rain damage forced them to seek new headquarters.
The building looked to be up for sale, but a group of artists and musicians formed Charleston Music & Art Collective with the intention of improving the building and opening an all-ages venue.
The group made some repairs, tussled with the city to get a performance space up to safety codes, and managed to host a few shows before it was displaced by the T-Rex Science Center.
Ultimately, the science center didn’t stay either, but opened in Southridge last November, leasing 26,000 square feet in the back half of the SkyZone trampoline park.
After the location in Southridge opened, Breeden said they planned to eventually return to the Purity Maid building when they raised the needed funds.
With reduced income and no outside assistance, continuing wasn’t possible. According to the news release, the T-Rex Science Center hoped to remain open past Christmas for holiday shopping and last visits.