Scientology buys former museum

The Church of Scientology is moving into the downtown St. Paul building that once housed the Science Museum of Minnesota’s vast collection of dinosaurs and fossils.

The Rev. Brian Fesler of the church and broker Eric Rapp of Welsh Cos. confirmed the sale of the 80,000-square-foot building Thursday, but neither would disclose the price. The deal closed last week.

For the past year, the building at Wabasha and Exchange Streets has sat idle. The Minnesota Business Academy charter high school went belly-up there in 2006. The city owns the parking ramp underneath and will continue to operate it, according to St. Paul Planning Director Cecile Bedor.

Part of the old museum, located across Wabasha, is now the home of the McNally Smith College of Music, which won’t be affected by the deal.

“We are very excited to be in St Paul and are looking forward to working with our new neighbors on the block, as well as [McNally Smith] and the other neighbors,” Fesler said via e-mail while on an out-of-town trip.

He said that the building will be used as a church and that he plans to share more specific plans in a few weeks.

Several potential buyers, including schools, cultural organizations and a medical business, had expressed interest in the building, but its size made it difficult to sell, Rapp said.

“That was a recurring problem; it kind of needed a big user,” Rapp said. “It’s a big building and it can’t be divided up that well. It needed somebody who was going to use all or a big chunk of it.”

But in recent months, the Church of Scientology came forward and snapped it up with plans for a major renovation, Rapp said.

The Science Museum occupied the space until it moved to is location on the Mississippi riverfront in 1999.

The church has a much smaller branch on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

The Church of Scientology promotes the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life, according to its website.

It was created by L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s. Two of its most notable adherents are actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday June 15, 2007.
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