A year after a financial setback threatened to derail the project, the $305 million Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami is set to open on time this spring, the Associated Press reports.
By December 2015, completion of the four-acre complex was in jeopardy after museum administrators had burned through $165 million from Miami-Dade County in borrowed funds tied to property taxes, about $80 million in private pledges had yet to materialize, and a plan to use those pledges to secure $105 million in bank loans had fallen through. And even as the museum faced a cash crunch, its primary benefactors, Patricia and Phillip Frost, delayed a $1 million payment — part of their $35 million naming gift — pending the ouster of the forty-member board. Eventually, the Frosts were able to secure the bank loans and contributed another $4 million to cover cost overruns, the county came through with about $45 million from a hotel tax earmarked for tourism and cultural projects, and the museum trimmed nearly $25 million from construction costs.
"This is an important personal project for us," the Frosts said in a statement to the AP. "We are committed to ensuring the success of the museum in the hope that it will inspire generations of children and adults."
When completed, the 250,000-square-foot museum will feature a 500,000-gallon, three-level aquarium housing sharks, barracuda, tuna, and sea turtles; an Everglades exhibit; a state-of-the-art planetarium; an exhibit on the evolution of flight from dinosaurs to jet fighters; and numerous labs, conference rooms, and hands-on experiences. Officials are hoping that the museum, located in Museum Park next to the Perez Art Museum Miami and near American Airlines Arena and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, will draw 725,000 visitors annually. Now that its planned annual county operating subsidy is being used to finish construction, officials told the AP those attendance projections need to be met to keep the finances on track.
"We're going to have one of the best science and technology museums in the nation," said Michael Spring, senior adviser for cultural affairs to Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez. "These kinds of projects are all challenges to get done. It's worth it when people see the result."