Advertisement

Hillsborough again seeks to redevelop MOSI property

A prior effort to put a mixed-use project on the site stalled in 2020.
Guests are seen leaving through the front doors at the Museum of Science and Industry in 2015. The downsized museum now uses less space and Hillsborough County wants to seek redevelopment proposals for the property.
Guests are seen leaving through the front doors at the Museum of Science and Industry in 2015. The downsized museum now uses less space and Hillsborough County wants to seek redevelopment proposals for the property.
Published March 1|Updated March 1

Hillsborough County-owned land surrounding the Museum of Science and Industry on Fowler Avenue could someday be home to mixed-use development including housing, an entertainment venue, hotel, movie studio and technology and life-science businesses with high-wage jobs.

That is the hope of the Hillsborough Commission, which on Wednesday took the first step to again seek a private company to redevelop the 74-acre site, home to the science museum known commonly by the acronym MOSI.

“The MOSI site has been one of the county’s most underutilized assets. The economic development opportunities here really are endless,” said commission chairperson Ken Hagan.

Hillsborough County Commission chairperson Ken Hagan called the 74-acre site of the Museum of Science and Industry an underutilized asset that presents endless enormous economic development opportunities.
Hillsborough County Commission chairperson Ken Hagan called the 74-acre site of the Museum of Science and Industry an underutilized asset that presents endless enormous economic development opportunities. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

It’s a familiar plan. The county agreed to seek a private redevelopment partner for the property in June 2020, then pulled the plug late that year because of the economic uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The county previously called the museum property a “community catalyst’' and advertised that it wanted “a visionary development partner who will leverage the innovation that surrounds the site and the area’s booming economy to create an urban, mixed-use hub for cutting-edge companies, sustainable living and community advancement.”

The project would be part of a larger and sustainable high-tech district covering 19 square miles between Interstates 275 and 75 and from Bearss Avenue to Busch Boulevard. Dubbed the Uptown Innovation District, it includes the University of South Florida, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and the former University Mall, which is now rebranded as Rithm at Uptown, in an area where $2.4 billion worth of projects are planned.

Hagan compared the county’s opportunity to Water Street Tampa and St. Petersburg’s efforts to redevelop the Tropicana Field site as the Historic Gas Plant District. He said the request for proposals should be “fairly broad in order to stimulate the most market interest.”

The commission unanimously approved his motion directing county staff to develop a timeline and recommend what could be included in the redevelopment.

Commissioner Pat Kemp said she hoped the project would include affordable housing. Commissioner Harry Cohen advocated for setting aside green space for public use.

Kemp, who sits on the museum’s board of directors, said it would be a key part of the project.

“There’s been a really big turnaround in MOSI,” she said. ”MOSI is on the upswing again.”

The museum complex began in 1981 but downsized in 2017 amid financial struggles. Three years ago, the county said approximately 364,000 square feet of space, including the former IMAX Theater, were unoccupied and could be refurbished or demolished as part of the redevelopment.

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options
Related: Commission advances MOSI catalyst plan

Separately, the county, at Hagan’s urging, sought a a private partner in 2021 on a proposed film studio. It followed a study that said the region could support a 60,000-square-foot studio. The county, however, rejected the two submitted proposals from private companies and didn’t proceed with the idea.

The 74-acre museum site also shouldn’t be mistaken as a potential home for a University of South Florida football stadium, Hagan said in an interview. The idea is to generate new property tax revenue, and turning the land over to a nonprofit university wouldn’t increase the property tax rolls and “defeats the whole purpose,” he said.