Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Business

Museum of Science and Industry board interested in Jeff Vinik's downtown Tampa project

TAMPA — Jeff Vinik was a tad busy Monday — his Tampa Bay Lightning were in New York for that night's NHL playoff game — but he still found time to address a very important group: the Museum of Science and Industry's board of directors.

Vinik is undertaking a $1 billion redevelopment of downtown Tampa, and he thinks MOSI would be a great addition to the project.

So on Monday the Lightning owner briefed board members on the idea — and they're definitely interested.

"I think the board was flattered to be asked to consider whether or not they want to be included in that strategy," said board chairman Robert Thomas, "and clearly, the board is interested."

The more than two dozen board members tasked the smaller executive committee with officially exploring the concept of relocating the museum from E Fowler Avenue next to the University of South Florida to somewhere in downtown Tampa.

Thomas said that likely means that sometime in the future, MOSI will hire a consulting firm to put together a feasibility study exploring such a move.

"We'll look at some outside help and guidance from an experienced professional who does this thing for a living," said Thomas, who is the CEO of Two Rivers Ranch Inc. in Thonotosassa.

Vinik owns and controls 40 acres of downtown property, including the lease to Amalie Arena and Channelside Bay Plaza. He intends to spend the next 10 years transforming it into a new urban waterfront neighborhood, business and entertainment district.

He hired a team of urban planners to make it a pedestrian-friendly area that will be attractive to not just millennials, but also families. One of the planners' ideas was to bring in a family-friendly attraction.

In April, MOSI officials acknowledged that they were talking about the idea to Vinik's downtown development company, Strategic Property Partners, or SPP.

But the MOSI board's move on Monday was the first step toward officially exploring the idea.

"We believe MOSI would make an excellent addition to the district, although it's too premature to discuss any detail of how or where it would specifically fit the footprint," Vinik spokesman Bill Wickett said. "We'll continue to study the possibilities with the MOSI board and Hillsborough County to see how we can continue moving forward."

The University of South Florida already plans to build its new medical school in the middle of Vinik's project. To that end, Vinik donated an acre of his downtown property worth up to $12 million to USF.

SPP has acknowledged that the Lightning owner might have to make a similar donation — be it land or money — to help make a downtown MOSI a reality. But no details have been discussed yet.

"We didn't get into anything specific," Thomas said.

After Monday morning's meeting, Vinik flew to New York to see his Lightning defeat the Rangers 6-2.

Contact Jamal Thalji at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.

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