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EXCLUSIVE: Frost Science Museum CEO confident Miami project will complete despite funding battle

The president and CEO of Miami’s Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has insisted the high-profile relocation of the museum to its “next generation” new home on Miami’s waterfront will be completed despite a US$45m (£31.3m, €41.5m) shortfall in funding.

The museum’s new three-storey facility – designed by Grimshaw Architects – is entering the final construction phase four years after work first began. However, the project has received less private financial support and higher construction bills than expected and is struggling to meet the total project cost of US$307m (£214.1m, €283.5m).

The Miami-Dade County Commission is currently considering a proposal from mayor Carlos Gimenez to provide the extra funding in a bid to complete the construction without significant delays. The county had initially agreed to pay US$4m (£2.7m, €3.6m) per year to the museum for a decade to cover operational costs, but could now present this as one up-front sum in return for greater oversight over the museum once it opens, according to local reports.

In an exclusive interview with CLAD, Frost museum chief Gillian Thomas said she was confident an agreement would be reached allowing work to proceed. “I’ve been very encouraged by the support we’ve been receiving from the county and the community as a whole,” she said. “This is a very important project with a big impact long-term for Miami as it seeks to become a global tech hub and a major tourism destination.

“The importance of it and the stage we’ve got to means it is something everyone wants to see happen. We have a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D, but we’re focusing on Plan A – support from the county – for the moment.”

The Frost Museum will anchor Miami’s developing cultural quarter, which also features the 40-acre Museum Park and Perez Art Museum Miami.

The 250,000sq ft (32,225sq m) building is set to feature a 510,000 gallon aquarium, 3D planetarium, wildlife centre, hands-on exhibits exploring aviation to innovation and interactive digital technology.

Grimshaw have designed the building as an open and welcoming three-storey community building, with exterior breezeways and scenic elevators that invite cool ocean winds, and canopies for shade and shelter.

“The building is the biggest exhibit,” Thomas told CLAD. “It’s a very green structure and the kinds of information streams coming from it will be huge. For example, we can look at how the presence of visitors impacts the cooling requirements of different areas, or we can compare different roofing systems. We want the building itself to be an educational tool and something that people will research. A lot of architects and engineers are very excited about it.“

Thomas insisted that despite the funding issue, 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.”

She added that future operational costs and open-access programmes can be covered by private donors who have already expressed an interest. “The aquarium and planetarium are particularly financially viable and there are many fundraising streams open to us, so I think we’ll be just fine,” she said.

The estimated opening date for the museum has been moved back to Q3 2016, with more concrete information to be released when the funding issue is resolved and a 30ft single acrylic window sheet – the largest unfinished component of the construction – is installed in the aquarium.

A webcam tracking the construction of the project can be viewed here.

Several major leisure projects are currently underway in Miami, and a selection of the most innovative, including the Frost Museum, are featured in the latest issue of CLADmag.

Frost Science Museum  architecture  design  Miami  Grimshaw  Miami-Dade County 
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The president and CEO of Miami’s Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has insisted the high-profile relocation of the museum to its “next generation” new home on Miami’s waterfront will be completed despite a US$45m (£31.3m, €41.5m) shortfall in funding. The museum’s new three-storey facility – designed by Grimshaw Architects – is entering the final construction phase four years after work first began. However, the project has received less
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The museum was scheduled for completion in 2015 / Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science
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