It's decided: Museum of Science and Industry will move to downtown Tampa
TAMPA — The Museum of Science and Industry will begin the process of relocating near downtown Tampa, its board decided Tuesday.
Just five days after a consultant’s report said the struggling science center would thrive in a downtown location, museum leaders voted to initiate a strategic plan and enlist a task force that will guide a move to Tampa’s urban core. Planning efforts are expected to take a year.
The decision means MOSI will eventually leave its longtime north Tampa home near the University of South Florida and will likely join the 40-acre development project of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment.
Vinik first suggested MOSI would fit in with his plans there almost exactly a year ago. A move is still probably several years away.
“We are going to work with the best and brightest minds available to truly reinvent MOSI and its role in our community,” MOSI board chairman Mike Schultz said in a statement. “We’ll be looking at governance – who is helping drive this forward – and what needs to be in place for a total success."
The museum first opened its doors at the East Fowler Avenue location in 1982 and expanded in 1995. Billed as the largest science center in the southeast, it once was a heralded local attraction. But it has languished in recent years and now faces declining revenues and attendance, an aging building, and significant debt.
Since the start of the fiscal year in October, the museum has lost $277,000, according to its monthly financial statements provided to the county.
A consultant report released Friday said moving to the Vinik/Cascade development would boost ticket sales and provide a fresh start in a new and more manageable building. There, museum leaders could reinvent the beleaguered brand, consultants said, and MOSI could also build off the other museums already in that area to draw more tourists and locals
“It’s all about critical mass and there’s a nice collection of cultural facilities downtown now,” Florida Aquarium President and CEO Thom Stork said. “MOSI would be one more.”
A move would still have to be approved by Hillsborough County commissioners. The county owns the land beneath and around MOSI and some county leaders have been eager to turn that parcel into a tax revenue producer.
The county has plans to transition the area around USF into an innovation district and those 80 acres around MOSI could serve as the site for a corporate headquarters.
“Our planners will be seeking out innovative designs and exciting ways to touch the future. And we’ll also be elevating key elements of MOSI’s existing programs – exploring space, understanding health sciences, and connecting with tomorrow,” said MOSI President and CEO Molly Demeulenaere. “In the year ahead, MOSI will move from a focus on being the largest science center in the Southeast to becoming one of the finest in North America.”