Vote starts clock for DIA to complete negotiations for MOSH site

The museum’s CEO said he expects the design for the $85 million facility by mid-2022.

A conceptual rendering of a new Museum of Science and History.
A conceptual rendering of a new Museum of Science and History.
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The Downtown Investment Authority is on track to complete a land lease agreement with the Jacksonville Museum of Science and History for the nonprofit’s plan to relocate to the city-owned Shipyards on the Northbank.

The DIA board voted 7-0 on Nov. 17 to market a 6.86-acre parcel at the Shipyards east of Hogans Creek for 30 days before completing a long-term lease agreement with MOSH in January.

The DIA must issue the 30-day notice before accepting an unsolicited bid or offer from a developer, company or organization for city-owned property.

If the board does not receive any viable bids, its staff can complete negotiations with MOSH for the land lease.

In October, the museum board announced the MOSH Genesis campaign to raise money to leave 1025 Museum Circle on the Downtown Southbank, its home since 1967.

MOSH CEO Bruce Fafard told the board Nov. 17 the museum has outgrown its existing 77,000 square feet, where it annually hosts 180,000 to 226,000.

“Building a new museum with roughly twice the capacity will allow us to grow our annual visitors from where we are today to somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000,” he said.

MOSH leadership told DIA officials it expects the project to be an $85 million capital investment, according to the draft term sheet.

DIA CEO Lori Boyer told a DIA committee Nov. 16 that MOSH plans to build a 130,000-square-foot museum on 2½ acres within the 6.68-acre parcel footprint. 

MOSH and the city later will determine the specific location.

The DIA board set specific terms in its resolution for any developer that plans to submit a bid during the 30-day disposition notice period that mirror much of what MOSH is proposing. 

The bids must: 

• Agree to the 40-year ground lease with a 10-year renewal option. 

• Propose leasing a 2.5-acre parcel within the Lot X property outlined by DIA.

• Pitch a cultural or civic attraction, museum, entertainment venue or attraction open to the public. 

• Make a minimum private capital investment of $40 million.

• Be a developer that can demonstrate a successful track record operating similar facilities. 

• Be able to draw at least 100,000 visitors per year.

• Include a proposed rental rate. 

• Identify if the developer/tenant is exempt from paying ad valorem taxes.

• Propose a construction start by Dec. 31, 2023, for completion by Dec. 31, 2026.

The potential site for the new Museum of Science and History.
The potential site for the new Museum of Science and History.

DIA board member Jim Citrano Jr. said several members hoped to see a site plan or design before the long-term ground lease returns to the board for a final vote in January. 

After the meeting, Fafard said MOSH is beginning the design phase and the final design likely will be complete in mid-2022. 

He said completing the lease will help with fundraising.

“We do have a number of donors that have told us straight out, ‘come back to us when you have the land settled,’” Fafard said.

MOSH has raised nearly $11 million in its MOSH Genesis Campaign, he said.

That includes a $5 million donation from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan in November 2020.

Fafard said the chief financial officer of one of the larger financial services employers in the Jacksonville area told him Nov. 16 that once MOSH secures the lease, the organization will discuss a contribution. 

The MOSH CEO declined to identify the potential donor but he said the organization was one of the largest employers in Jacksonville. 

“Considering that we’ve been in a pandemic for almost 24 months, I think that we’ve done a fantastic job,” Fafard said.

City Council approved $12 million to help pay for the MOSH relocation as part of the fiscal year 2021-22 Capital Improvement Plan.

MOSH announced in August that Omaha, Nebraska-based DLR Group will work with Jacksonville-based kasper architects + associates and SCAPE, a New York-based landscape architecture firm, on the MOSH Genesis project. 

A preliminary term sheet says the DIA and city would allow MOSH to design and program the parcel’s remaining 4.36 acres. 

In that space, MOSH could use 1½ acres shared with the city for private events and programs. 

According to Boyer, MOSH would contract designs for the other 2.86 acres as a public park, Downtown Riverwalk extension and Emerald Trail connection. 

The city would reimburse MOSH up to $500,000 for the public and park space design.

The DIA negotiated a 40-year lease with the nonprofit at $1 per year with a 10-year option.

The term sheet could change before the board is expected to vote on it in January.

When the city officially releases the notice Nov. 19, DIA board members and staff will not be able to discuss the deal publicly for the 30 days the disposition is active.

Board members Oliver Barakat and Braxton Gillam were absent for the vote Nov. 17.




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