The Museum of Science & History has lined up the land it needs for a new $100 million museum on the Northbank.
The Jacksonville City Council agreed Tuesday to lease city land to the museum for 40 years at $1 per year.
A public park also will be built surrounding the museum, and the Northbank Riverwalk and A. Philip Randolph Boulevard will be extended to reach the site. The city will reimburse the museum up to $800,000 for the park design.
LeAnna Cumber was the only council member to vote against the plan Tuesday, over the amount of public money involved. She believes the project should be entirely privately funded. “We have got to stop expecting taxpayers to pay for everything,” Cumber said.
MOSH is required to raise $40 million toward the project by Dec. 31 or risk terminating the agreement. So far, it has raised more than $36 million — $20 million from the city of Jacksonville’s Capital Improvement Plan and $16 million in private donations through the MOSH Genesis capital campaign.
MOSH recently expanded its development team, including the appointment of a Chief Development Officer Maureen Mercho, previously chief development officer for United Way of Northeast Florida.
MOSH says many potential individual donors have told the museum the property had to be nailed down before they would make financial commitments.
The Neviaser Foundation donated $1 million to the campaign last week.
MOSH has operated in its current location on the Southbank of Downtown Jacksonville since 1969 but has outgrown its 77,000-square-foot facility. Plans for the new Museum comprise approximately 100,000 square feet across three floors, with the option to build a future expansion of an additional 30,000 square feet, MOSH said.
The Downtown Investment Authority Board approved the allocation of 2.5 acres for the new museum near the Shipyards along East Bay Street, along with 4.7 acres for a riverwalk and park space. The site is just east of the Jacksonville Fire Museum and Pier 1, the home of the USS Orleck naval ship museum.
“Museums are the mark of a sophisticated community. We are so thankful for the unwavering support from our public officials and outpouring of support from our community. Hundreds of Northeast Florida residents sent letters of support to the City Council to elevate our vision for MOSH’s future — reinforcing the widespread interest in bringing this incredible project to reality,” said Christian Harden, chair of the MOSH board of trustees.
Once the project breaks ground, construction is expected to take 18 months. MOSH will remain open at its current location throughout construction.
A preliminary analysis by ConsultEcon estimates that the new museum will increase annual attendance from 175,000 (2017-2019 average) to 469,000, a 168% increase; triple tourism attendance; increase the museum’s operating budget to $8 million, nearly tripling its pre-pandemic budget; and create 78 jobs, contributing $2.3 million in new salaries and wages to the local economy, MOSH says.
Visitors to the new museum will first experience a dramatic two-story “river drop” water feature, then take pathways that mimic the river’s role in connecting the region.
Other planned exhibits will include an interactive River Lab; a Mission-Based Maker Space, where guests can work on four engineering challenges; and a Story Lab map of the Jacksonville area with art, films and other cultural artifacts.