The western facade of the Museum of Science & History.
The Museum of Science & History is a step closer to completing a site plan for its proposed relocation to the Northbank Shipyards.
The Downtown Investment Authority board is expected to vote on final approval Dec. 21.
The plan divides the 6.8-acre Bay Street site east of Hogans Creek into four sections comprising the 2.5-acre parcel that MOSH will lease from the city and build the museum; two public-private space parcels totaling 1.5 acres; and a 3.15-acre public park that includes the Riverwalk.
MOSH CEO Bruce Fafard presented the latest site plan and the museum’s design to the DIA board Retail Enhancement and Property Disposition Committee on Dec. 14.
This is the space MOSH will use as a habitat for rescue animals in its educational programming.
The committee recommended approval 4-0 with six conditions:
• Building egress points to Bay Street and the St. Johns River shall be prominent and have a direct, external connection to each other with the intention to ensure a strong relationship between the building and the site.
• The museum’s rooftop shall be activated consistent with the Downtown Zoning Overlay.
• The Activity Node beacon (or a marker signifying a place for public activities) shall be located along the St. Johns River frontage, at the south end of the property.
• MOSH shall maximize transparency of the Hixon Exhibit space consistent with applicable wildlife (animal husbandry) regulations.
• The Urban Open Space between the building and Bay Street shall feature public art or interactive equipment or installations for a pedestrian experience.
• The continuous right-turn lane from Bay Street into the bus drop-off loop shall be removed. Entrance to the site shall be at A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, and a right turn lane at the signalized intersection may be allowed subject to city traffic engineering approval.
Fafard and the DIA staff negotiated in the meeting over how strictly to regulate the river view of the Hixon Florida Naturalist Exhibit planned for the museum.
The DIA staff wanted the area to have at least 70% transparency, meaning the habitat and animals would be visible from outside the museum facility.
“I can tell you from a regulatory perspective, both state statute and federal regulation, you can’t do that for these animals,” Fafard said.
“That is outside of the realm of possibility. We will work, certainly, and do as much as we can. … I cannot violate state and federal regulations.”According to Fafard, the transparency of the habitats is regulated by the state and federal governments. DIA staff wanted to increase the transparency to allow river views on the first floor of the museum.
MOSH officials also do not want to move the exhibit to the eastern side of the site plan because that is reserved for future expansion.
Fafard said the best river view will be from the museum’s second floor and will not be blocked by the Hixon Garden.
Board member Jim Citrano said he felt like some of the staff language was “too prescriptive” on the site plan requirements at an early stage in the project.
“We should not play civil engineer, architect or landscape architect,” Citrano said. “The provisions, requirements and restrictions should allow for the professionals to do their jobs.”
Committee Chair Oliver Barakat said the DIA gets “very granular” on project details when it’s “disposing of city-owned property on the riverfront.”
“It’s a very, very important site that’s strategic for the city,” he said.
Conceptual renderings submitted by MOSH and landscape architecture firm SCAPE show 16,200 square feet of gallery space, education suite and a public cafe terrace on the first floor.
The cafe would face Bay Street.
The second level would have 37,800 square feet of gallery and exhibit space as well as a theater that Fafard said is a planetarium.
The rooftop would have an event terrace facing Hogans Creek and the St. Johns River that Fafard said would be about 2,000 square feet.
In addition to the Hixon exhibit, MOSH’s outdoor space would have a discovery path leading from Bay Street to the main entrance, a “lookout lawn” and the St. Johns Porch facing the park, Riverwalk and the St. Johns River.
The site plan and final museum design still need approval by the Downtown Development Review Board, which ensures new projects adhere to Downtown design guidelines.
In October 2020, MOSH announced plans to relocate from 1025 Museum Circle on the Downtown Southbank, its location since 1967.
In January, the DIA board and MOSH reached an agreement for a 40-year ground lease at $1 per year for 2½ acres of city-owned Shipyards property.
As part of the lease, MOSH has the option to design the entire 6.8-acre site and the city will reimburse the nonprofit up to $800,000 in costs.
In exchange, Fafard said MOSH would complete an estimated $85 million, 130,000-square-foot museum facility by Dec. 31, 2027.
New York-based design studio Local Projects; construction management team Balfour Beatty and Stellar; international design firm DLR Group; and Jacksonville-based kasper architects + associates also is working on the project.