Construction funding for $300M Frost science museum up in the air

Private fundraising has fallen short of goal

Jan.January 13, 2016 01:40 PM

Construction of the Frost Museum of Science in July 2015

Construction of the Frost Museum of Science could be in limbo as county officials rush to save the roughly $300 million project. 

Construction as of July 2015

Miami-Dade County has spent nearly all of the $160 million it set aside for construction of the new museum in downtown Miami, which is slated to open toward the end of this year, the Miami Herald reported. The museum hasn’t been able to land construction financing to fill the gap left by a shortfall in cash raised privately.

A senior adviser to county Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the Miami Herald that the museum can’t make its monthly payment of $5 million to $7 million to Skanska, the project’s general contractor, starting at the end of January. In response, Gimenez’s office has come up with a plan that would provide the museum with $45 million upfront that would come from a promised annual operating subsidy of $4 million. The plan, which would require commission approval, would mandate that the museum not ask for operating help for 20 years.

The museum, located on a four-acre site next to the Perez Art Museum, announced in August that it had reached a fundraising milestone of $103 million raised privately. The Frosts donated $45 million; the Knight Foundation $10 million; and board of trustees co-chairs Daniel and Trish Bell, who pledged $7 million, according to the Herald.

The museum is also entangled in lawsuits with its original general contractor, Suffolk Construction. The project fired Suffolk in mid-2014 over reported construction delays and quality concerns – which cost about $25 million more, the Herald reported.

When completed, the museum’s 250,000 square feet will be split into four sections: the Exploration Center, planetarium, Living Core and Innovation Center. Besides the classrooms and educational facilities set up for children and their families, the museum will have conference and event space, food vendors and a plethora of exhibits. The 500,000-gallon Living Core Aquarium topped off in July, and a total of 70 pumps and filtration systems have been installed throughout the museum for its many aquariums. [Miami Herald] – Katherine Kallergis

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