The Museum of Science & History announced that the Harden Family Foundation donated $1 million to the MOSH Genesis capital campaign.
The gift will be honored through the naming of the River Patio at the museum’s new facility on the Downtown Northbank.
The foundation is led by M.C. “Ceree” Harden III, a Jacksonville insurance and employee benefits executive known for his impact in the local business community and Northeast Florida’s philanthropic sector.
He led Harden & Associates Inc. as CEO for more than 40 years before guiding the firm to an acquisition by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in 2020.
During Harden’s career, he served in leadership roles on the boards of Baptist Health; the Jacksonville Port Authority; JAX Chamber; and Cornerstone, now known as JAXUSA Partnership, the chamber’s economic development division.
“During my time on the economic development committee, we recommended locating a cultural facility within the sports and entertainment district that could support year-round activity. That was several decades ago,” Harden said in a news release.
“Finally, we are close to seeing that recommendation become a reality through MOSH’s exciting vision for the future. Together with my family, I am proud to contribute to this worthy endeavor.”
Speaking for the family of seven siblings and nine grandchildren, Harden’s son, Christian, said July 26 that establishing a museum near the sports complex Downtown was an idea his father had about 20 years ago. That was when he was on the board of directors of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, now the city Office of Economic Development.
“He helped research the components that make a thriving downtown. When you look at other cities, museums are a critical part of that,” Christian Harden said.
Contributing $1 million to the Genesis campaign is a way to honor his father’s dedication to the improving the quality of life in Jacksonville.
“The MOSH project is important, but what’s more important is my dad’s legacy. It’s not just this gift. He has committed his life to community service,” he said.
The MOSH Genesis $40 million capital campaign supports plans for the museum to move from 1025 Museum Circle on the Downtown Southbank to a larger building to be developed on the Northbank near where Hogans Creek meets the St. Johns River.
“Every parent hopes their children’s generation will have better opportunities than the ones they knew. This generous contribution from the Harden family will support MOSH’s goal of inspiring the joy of lifelong learning for several generations to come,” Maureen Mercho, chief development officer of MOSH, said in the release.
Museum leaders announced their intent to build a facility at the Shipyards property Downtown in October 2020.
Since then, the organization engaged a team for the project including DLR Group and kasper architects + associates for architecture; Balfour Beatty and Stellar as a joint venture for construction management; Local Projects for exhibit design; and NineOaks Development for project management.
The new museum is expected to cost $100 million including design, site preparation, construction and exhibition fabrication.
Legislation authored by the city Downtown Investment Authority and approved by City Council in 2022 authorizes the disposition and development of 2.5 acres of city-owned land at the Shipyards property; a 40-year ground lease of the land for $1 per year; design of the park and the Riverwalk; and other agreements related to the creation of the new MOSH and surrounding park spaces.
The agreement states that the museum must begin construction by Dec. 31, 2023, and complete the project by Dec. 31, 2027.
The museum, originally called the Jacksonville Children’s Museum, has operated in its current location on the Southbank since 1969 and operations have outgrown the 77,000-square-foot facility.
The new museum is designed with about 100,000 square feet on three floors with the option to build a 30,000-square-foot expansion.