Miami-Dade County

Miami’s Frost Science Museum construction nearing key milestones

The construction site for the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science at Museum Park on 11th Street and Biscayne Boulevard on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.
The construction site for the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science at Museum Park on 11th Street and Biscayne Boulevard on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The planetarium at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science soon will look like a gleaming white orb rather than the lower half of a giant gray ball. And the Gulf Stream Tank aquarium finally looks like something that will eventually hold 500,000 gallons of water.

Nearly three years after breaking ground — and six months after replacing its former construction management company with Skanska USA — the museum is hitting some key milestones as the finish line starts to inch into view.

“It’s an extremely exciting time to witness everything that’s going on,” said Victor Alvarez, vice chair and secretary of the museum’s board of trustees.

Workers finished pouring the roof deck on the north building of the complex earlier this month. Next week, work is scheduled to start enclosing the planetarium dome, a process that will take about two weeks.

And sometime in mid-December, contractors expect to be able to pour the concrete for the giant aquarium that will become one of the $300 million museum’s key attractions. To complete that step, workers will need to work out the logistics of bringing in 140 trucks of concrete for a continuous flow (and work around traffic that might be heading to events at nearby performing arts or sports venues).

“It’ll be a well orchestrated, all-night event into the following morning and day,” said chief operating officer Frank Steslow.

Museum officials are aiming to open the new building in Museum Park by early summer 2016.

“That’s what we’re striving for and we think given where the schedule is now, that that’s achievable,” Steslow said. “We still have a long way to go.”

The construction schedule has been re-sequenced to prioritize earlier completion of areas that need more time for exhibits to be installed. And Steslow said the museum and its board are in the process of changing some plans to use more space in one of the buildings for exhibitions. Any resulting increase to the total budget would be made up with private donations, he said.

County bond money is funding $165 million of the project, and the museum is working to raise another $135 million in private funds. Steslow said donors have pledged about $90 million so far, with a few more gift announcements expected soon.

Alvarez and Steslow said site tours are taking place regularly to raise awareness (and cash).

“Obviously the project progressing as it is and being so visible is facilitating a lot of our efforts in that regard,” Alvarez said. “It’s going to be easier to excite people about it.”

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