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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 20, 202206:20 PM EST

DIA board approves terms of MOSH land lease at Shipyards

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The museum chose the site east of Hogans Creek on the Downtown riverfront as the site for its proposed $85 million facility. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The Museum of Science and History agreed to terms of a ground lease for 2½ acres on the city-owned Shipyards property as part of its proposal to build a new facility on the Downtown Northbank.

The Downtown Investment Authority board voted 6-0 on Jan. 19 to sign off on the details of a 40-year lease with MOSH for $1 per year.

In exchange, MOSH CEO Bruce Fafard says the nonprofit will complete an $85 million, 130,000-square-foot museum facility by Dec. 31, 2027. 

MOSH announced in October 2020 it plans to relocate from 1025 Museum Circle on the Downtown Southbank, its location since 1967.

The deal would allow MOSH to build a facility as small as 75,000 square feet, but Fafard told board members during a Jan. 18 committee meeting that the museum’s board is committed to the larger space. 

He reassured the DIA that, if there was a lag in fundraising, it would be addressed by the phasing in of exhibits and not the building’s footprint.

“The 130,000-square-foot building from our perspective is really nonnegotiable. That is what we feel is the size that we need,” Fafard said.

“The signature building is very important to us, as I’m sure it is to the community.”

The new MOSH site at the Shipyards.

The site

The 2½ acres site is part of 6.86 acres on the Shipyards on the west bank of where Hogans Creek meets the St. Johns River. 

The site also will have a 1½-acre shared space that includes a public park designed by MOSH that blends into the museum’s outdoor landscaping. 

According to the term sheet, MOSH can close the park occasionally for museum-led programming and events. The city would reimburse MOSH up to $800,000 for the park design as part of the deal.

MOSH would be able to request one 10-year extension to the lease.

The final redevelopment agreement will have to be approved by the City Council. MOSH will need the city’s Downtown design and building permitting approvals.

The land lease deal with MOSH could set a precedent to have a green space connection for private commercial development and city park space that could emerge at the Shipyards in the next five years.  

The term sheet asks the museum to design its new building to be 100 feet from the St. Johns River bulkhead to facilitate a better connection between existing and future park space on Shipyards.

City code calls for only a 50-foot setback from the river. Board member Jim Citrano said it is important for MOSH to meet the 100-foot benchmark to ensure Metropolitan Park is not detached from the 10.2-acre park the city plans west of Hogans Creek. 

DIA CEO Lori Boyer said Jan. 19 that she is in the final stages of negotiations with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to swap the former Kids Kampus park east of MOSH for the site at Shipyards West. 

The request for proposals to design the new park closed Jan. 19, according to Boyer. 

Iguana Investments, the development company of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, offered $200,000 annually to maintain Metropolitan Park as part of its $114 million deal with the city to build a Four Seasons hotel on the Kids Kampus parcel.

MOSH was working with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund as the nonprofit completed a master plan for the Downtown waterfront from Catherine Street to Metropolitan Park. 

The Museum of Science and History is new on the Downtown Southbank.

DuPont’s plan calls for a civic attraction at Shipyards West.

That plan is expected to be adopted by the DIA as it finalizes its comprehensive planning process in February.

MOSH ‘multiplier effect’ 

The city’s $1 annual land lease for MOSH would not have a positive return on investment for the city in terms of property taxes and sale proceeds, but Boyer and board members said that is the point.

The city is expected to receive 35 cents for every $1 invested in the MOSH deal. Boyer said that could increase when MOSH returns its existing site to the city but will still be negative. 

She said placing MOSH at Shipyards connects the Downtown Central Core with the Sports and Entertainment District.

Board member Oliver Barakat said MOSH will have a “multiplier effect” on the surrounding properties.

“This not one for strictly economic benefit. The social benefit and the activation of the Riverwalk are really what we need,” said board member Carol Worsham. 

“And I think the project as presented, conceptually, is going to be a great advantage to us.” 

The museum’s board is fundraising for its MOSH Genesis campaign. 

The deal with the city calls for MOSH to raise a minimum of $40 million for construction on the museum parcel and $70 million for the project in total. 

MOSH told the DIA that it plans to seek state and federal grant funding in addition to private donations. The deal would require MOSH to secure financing and begin construction by Dec. 31, 2023. 

“There’s going to be a lot of fundraising going on for this project,” DIA board member Todd Froats said.

“It’s going to take a heavy lift from the entire city, so I hope everybody can get behind that.” 

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