Make us your home page

Museum of Science and Industry initiates move to downtown Tampa

The Museum of Science and Industry would leave its large site near USF.

Times files

The Museum of Science and Industry would leave its large site near USF.

TAMPA — Almost exactly one year ago, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik first raised the possibility of moving the Museum of Science and Industry to his 40-acre redevelopment project near downtown Tampa.

MOSI leaders now want to take Vinik up on his offer.

The MOSI board voted Tuesday to begin a move that will eventually close the science center's home in north Tampa since 1982 and reopen it in the city's urban core. The decision comes just five days after a group of consultants said relocating downtown could jumpstart the struggling museum by boosting attendance and revenue.

A task force led by Mike Schultz, MOSI board chairman and president and CEO of Florida Hospital's West Florida Region, will piece together a strategic plan that will outline how the museum can remake itself in a new building and location with a refocused and reinvented brand.

Schultz said the feasibility study from the two consultants, Museum Management Consultants and ConsultEcon, was "hard to argue with."

"That's why we took action quickly," Schultz said. "We wanted to show we're excited."

But he added: "There are a lot of unanswered questions."

Starting with: How will MOSI pay for it?

MOSI is a nonprofit but Hillsborough County owns its current building and land, and has helped maintain and prop up the museum during recent financial difficulties. The museum has significant debt, a backlog of bills, more expenses than revenue and declining admissions.

Since the start of the fiscal year in October, MOSI has lost about $277,000.

Museum president and CEO Molly Demeulenaere acknowledged financing a new, modern building will take a significant fundraising effort.

"Any time that you take on an endeavor of this size, you definitely need some leadership gifts in your pipelines," she said. "They can't come in $1,000 increments.

"We will need some very large donors to be part of this conversation."

The task force plans to answer other questions — like "Where will it go?" "What will happen to the existing building?" and "Are the IMAX theater and the dinosaur coming, too?" — within a year.

In a statement, Vinik said he hopes to help.

"We are excited about the MOSI board's vote today, and more importantly, share their vision for what a world-class science center in downtown can offer the community," he said.

It will still likely be several years before MOSI leaves its current home and reopens about 11 miles away in downtown, assuming everything goes as planned.

A downtown museum will likely be much smaller, potentially half the size, than its sprawling campus on E Fowler Avenue near the University of South Florida. There, MOSI has boasted it is the largest science center in the southeast.

Consultants said a smaller museum will be more manageable financially and more flexible in its offerings and programs.

In the proposed location, it could connect via the Riverwalk to attractions and dining from Channelside Bay Plaza all the way to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, drawing in tourists and locals.

Consultants estimated a move could increase attendance by as much as 40 percent.

"It will compliment everything that's already there," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

Thom Stork, president and CEO of the Florida Aquarium, MOSI's future neighbor, agreed but added that the museum desperately needs a makeover.

"A new MOSI needs to be a reinvented MOSI," Stork said. "For my children who are now in their late 30s, MOSI was very important to them and it was a big part of their life, but I don't know if my grandchildren look at MOSI the same."

The Hillsborough County Commission would still have to approve the move, and if conditions change, the museum could reverse course.

Demeulenaere said the board was generally in agreement that it was time for a change. After a two-hour closed-door meeting, Demeulenaere said 17 board members voted in favor of a move, several abstained and one person voted against it. She would not say who that was.

At times, factions of MOSI's board have privately voiced concerns that the county was forcing the museum's hand. County officials have planned an ambitious redevelopment for the area around USF and would like the parcel hosting MOSI to generate tax revenue. Ideally, the land would lure a corporation or two to anchor a proposed innovation district.

There were worries, too, that MOSI was abandoning its commitment to underserved populations in that part of the county.

There will be plenty of time to figure out how MOSI can continue that mission as it also positions itself to attract new demographics, Demeulenaere said.

"Moving trucks are not here now," she said. "It's a massive undertaking. It's going to be one step at a time. We're not looking at a move in the next couple years."

Contact Steve Contorno at Follow @scontorno.

Museum of Science and Industry initiates move to downtown Tampa 04/19/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  5. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]