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Donors push Leonardo closer to opening

Published: Monday, April 25 2011 1:58 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker speaks Monday, April 25, 2011, at a ceremonial Move-In Day of The Leonardo in preparation for the grand opening of the new science, art and technology center later this year.

Scott G. Winterton, Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Move-in day at The Leonardo was more about housewarming gifts than actual moving.

In fact, the only boxes moved into the science, technology and art center Monday were empty. The ceremonial "move" featured Leonardo officials, donors and volunteers carrying a dozen or so boxes into the former library building at 209 E. 500 South, accompanied by the sounds of ongoing renovation of the building.

The gifts, however, were real. Leonardo executive director Peter Giles announced a pair of recent large donations — $275,000 from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and $160,000 from the Micron Foundation.

With those latest contributions, the two foundations have donated more than $1 million each to The Leonardo, joining O.C. Tanner Co. and the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation as $1 million-plus contributors.

James LeVoy Sorenson, an inventor and billionaire philanthropist, was one of the first donors to The Leonardo, Giles said. Sorenson was 86 when he died of cancer in January 2008.

Sorenson's son, Jim, said The Leonardo combines the interests of his father — science, technology and innovation — with his mother's love of the arts.

"I see the integration of all those things here," Jim Sorenson said. "I think it really is something our family can identify with."

The Leonardo plans to thank the Sorenson family for its donations by naming a section of the center the James L. Sorenson Family Science Gallery.

Micron's gift will be recognized as the Micron Education Center, "where students from around Utah will engage in learning activities aimed at critical thinking and creative problem solving," Giles said.

The education center will be built on the third floor and will include a collection of classrooms.

"We see a future in which students are inspired by math, science and engineering," said Dee Mooney of the Micron Foundation. "The students who will come through here will be inspired and educated in those areas that are so important to us."

The Leonardo's planned spring opening has been moved back to this summer, though a specific date has not yet been announced.

Renovations of the former library building began in October 2009 and still are under way. The work has included asbestos removal and seismic upgrades.

In June 2009, the Salt Lake City Council approved the sale of $10.2 million in bonds to renovate the building. The bond, approved by voters in 2003, is funding the renovation costs.

The Leonardo is leasing the building from Salt Lake City for just $12 a year.

Email: jpage@desnews.com

Twitter: jaredpage

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