Frosts step in to save Miami science museum after funding shortfall

by Kim Megson | 11 Feb 2016

A turbulent bid to build a world-class science museum in Miami is back on track after two principal donors stepped in to provide crucial funding to the cash-stricken project.

The US$307m (€283.5m, £214.1m) Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is entering the final construction phase, but a US$45m (€41.5m, £31.3m) funding shortfall emerged last month due to higher-than-expected construction costs and a failure to finance donor pledges.

However, the Frosts – who had already donated US$45m – have now provided the money needed for construction firm Skanska to continue work on the project. The pair’s bridge loan will cover costs until a private bank loan is secured and Miami-Dade Country decides whether it will provide a grant to fund the shortfall.

Construction on the 250,000sq ft (32,225sq m) Grimshaw-designed building – which is set to feature a 510,000 gallon aquarium, 3D planetarium and wildlife centre – is now expected to be finished in time for a 2016 opening.

As part of the loan agreement, the Frosts have demanded a wholesale change in the museum’s board of trustees.

“The Frosts explained that they recognise and are most appreciative of the outgoing board’s passion, dedication and leadership to date, but desire a change to enable them to appoint members with professional skills and expertise highly aligned with their vision for the future,” read a statement on the museum’s website.

The statement added that despite securing US$104m (€91.9m, £71.8m) in pledges, the board “was not successful in either financing its existing pledges to cash or securing the additional pledges necessary to otherwise yield sufficient cash to meet its scheduled and ongoing construction costs.”

The museum will now be completed “at an aggregate cost within its original budget, including contingencies,” despite the multitude of challenges the project has faced – including a change in its project administrator and construction manager during the last 18 months.

Speaking exclusively to CLAD last month, museum president and CEO Gillian Thomas said there was “a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D” in place to secure the museum’s completion, but reiterated that support from the county was the desired option.

She insisted that despite the funding issues, the completed museum will remain true to its mission of giving visitors “a sense of wonder, a greater understanding of science and an urge to do something to preserve the world we live in."

Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science  Miami  architecture  design  museum  US 
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A turbulent bid to build a world-class science museum in Miami is back on track after two principal donors stepped in to provide crucial funding to the cash-stricken project. The US$307m (€283.5m, £214.1m) Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is entering the final construction phase, but a US$45m (€41.5m, £31.3m) funding shortfall emerged last month due to higher-than-expected construction costs and a failure to finance donor pledges. However, the
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