DIA board OKs MOSH Shipyards site plan, Jacksonville Children’s Chorus loan

The agreements will help relocate two Jacksonville nonprofits to new Downtown facilities.

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The Downtown Investment Authority board signed off on two agreements Dec. 21 that would relocate two Jacksonville nonprofits to new facilities on the Northbank.

Museum of Science & History

The board voted 6-0 to approve the site plan for the Museum of Science & History’s campaign to move to a 2½-acre parcel on the city-owned Shipyards property that it will lease from the city. 

The property is part of a 6.8-acre site on Bay Street east of Hogans Creek that the plan divides into four sections.

In addition to the parcel where MOSH says it will build an estimated $85 million facility, the site will include two public-private space parcels totaling 1.5 acres, and a 3.15-acre public park that includes the Riverwalk. 

The board approved MOSH’s plan with six conditions to regulate possible obstruction of river views from inside the museum, the rooftop space and traffic flow at the site.

The MOSH area map.
The MOSH area map.

The nonprofit’s presentation included conceptual renderings submitted by MOSH and landscape architecture firm SCAPE showing 16,200 square feet of gallery space, an 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.

The renderings also show an area where MOSH will keep habitat for rescue animals used in its educational programming named the Hixon Florida Naturalist Exhibit.

The 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 DIA board all complimented the project. 

“We’re anxious to send you on your way to your next set of approvals,” Worsham said 

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 are working on the project.

the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus plans a new facility in the VyStar Credit Union parking garage.
the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus plans a new facility in the VyStar Credit Union parking garage.

Jacksonville Children’s Chorus 

The DIA board unanimously approved a $175,000 forgivable loan to the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus to help pay for building-out the nonprofit’s future facility in the new VyStar Credit Union parking garage.

The chorus will lease the space from VyStar.

The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus requested $200,000 from the DIA, but staff recommended $25,000 less because the project did not fit into any of the city agency’s incentive programs. 

The loan will be forgiven 20% annually for five years and be used toward tenant and personal property improvements to complete the project, according to a DIA staff report and term sheet. 

The documents say the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is budgeting $350,000 for the tenant improvements and purchasing furnishings for the space. 

The city issued a permit Nov. 30 for Danis Construction LLC to build-out the chorus space at a total project cost of $1.94 million. The balance of the construction cost come from VyStar’s expenses in building and readying the retail shell space, according chorus officials.

The project is in 6,411 square feet at 28 W. Forsyth St. on the ground floor of the parking garage under construction.

The DIA term sheet says the chorus will occupy 5,886 square feet.

According to the DIA, the project is expected to regularly bring the 316 children who participate in the chorus programs and about 54 employees Downtown. 

In exchange for the loan, chorus officials agreed to hold 12 performances per year in the new venue that are open to the public and an additional three public outreach public events per year Downtown. 

In July, VyStar President and CEO Brian Wolfburg said in a news release one of the goals was “to contribute to the ongoing revitalization in the area, but the added bonus of children being able to benefit from this new facility is really a dream come true.”

In 2020, the chorus moved from its previous Downtown location in a building next to St. John’s Cathedral into a shared space with The Florida Ballet in Arlington.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Chorus to have a state-of-the-art facility specifically designed for children and choral music. This could not have been possible without the tremendous support from VyStar and our generous donors,” President and Artistic Director Darren Dailey said in the July release.

Founded in 1995, the nonprofit’s mission is to provide choral music education for children of diverse backgrounds while filling a cultural need in the community and sharing the art form through live performances.

Editor Karen Brune Mathis contributed to this report.