With a series of funding mishaps and controversies seemingly behind it, construction of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Musuem of Science is moving forward.
Frost Museum executives took The Real Deal on a tour of the $305 million project in downtown Miami, where some of the first exhibits are being installed.
Although the museum’s exterior appears to have stayed the same in recent months, its interiors are beginning to take shape. Dry wall now covers much of the once-skeletal structures, and the framework for several of the permanent exhibits is now in place.
Frank Steslow, the museum’s chief operating officer, said construction has been ongoing despite the funding issues the project has faced. Earlier this year, the Frosts provided a bridge loan to keep construction going while the county explored other financial options. 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. And earlier this month, Badia Spices announced it would donate $1 million to the project.
Those funding shortfalls mean that certain exhibits won’t make it to the museum’s opening, like projections on the outside of the planetarium globe, though Steslow said on the tour that they hope to include them later. The five-story, 250,000-square-foot facility’s size remains the same.
Steslow and Gillian Thomas, president and CEO of the museum, declined to provide an opening date, but said they are aiming to complete construction by the end of the year. One of the major holdups is that months of data need to be collected, including nuances about their air conditioning systems, before some exhibits can be installed, Thomas said.
Although much work still needs to be done before the museum’s interiors begin to resemble the renderings, building blocks for several of the exhibits are being installed, like epoxy replicas of corals in the Caribbean reefs for the aquatic tanks and a large faux tree that will act as a perch for the open-air aviary.
While the museum won’t have all the exhibits that were originally planned at opening, Steslow said there will still be plenty to see. The project’s four sections – the Exploration Center, the Frost planetarium, Living Core Aquarium, and Innovation Labs and Cafe – each boast a myriad of activities, event space and workshops for children and scientifically inclined grown-ups.
Check out photos of construction from March 2015 here.