The Real Deal Miami

Frost Museum of Science CEO steps down ahead of museum’s opening date

$305M facility has faced board shakeup, funding shortfalls and GC change in the past

June 30, 2016 03:05PM

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Rendering of the museum, Gillian Thomas and Frank Steslow.

Rendering of the museum, Gillian Thomas and Frank Steslow

The president and CEO of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science will retire on Friday after 13 years and ahead of the museum’s estimated completion date. 

Gillian Thomas has led the museum through its oftentimes tumultuous development of a new $305 million facility in downtown Miami, which included a change in general contractor, a new board of trustees, and funding shortfalls earlier this year.

“I believe that this is the right time for me to retire: as we approach the completion of the building project, now the task is to get the team in place that can carry the project through opening and focus on the future operations,” Thomas said in a statement.

Thomas will be replaced by Frank Steslow, who has served as chief operating officer for the past eight years, according to a press release. She’ll continue as an adviser on the project, which is aiming to wrap up construction by the end of 2016 and to open next year. Thomas, who moved to Miami after leading similar projects in her native United Kingdom, told the Miami Herald that she will soon move to France to be with her husband and kids.

Steslow has more than 30 years of experience as a scientist and nonprofit executive. Before the Frost Museum, Steslow was CEO of the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Thomas has overseen the planning, design and construction, exhibits and fundraising for the project, which broke ground in Museum Park in 2012. Earlier this year, the Frosts provided a bridge loan to keep construction going while the county explored other financial options in the wake of funding shortfalls. The namesake donors also replaced the museum’s board of trustees, which had failed to meet critical fundraising goals. In April, Miami-Dade County approved a $45 million bailout for construction.

Construction is now fully funded, and the five-story, 250,000-square-foot facility’s size remains the same as originally planned.

On a tour of the museum’s construction in May, Steslow and Thomas told The Real Deal that certain exhibits will not make it to the opening, including projections on the outside of the planetarium globe, though they hope to include them later.  – Katherine Kallergis