JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The Museum of Science and History, best known simply as MOSH, might relocate from its longstanding location on downtown's Southbank, leaders of the Downtown Investment Authority leaders said Wednesday.
MOSH launched an $80 million fund-raising campaign in March 2019 to renovate and expand its 50-year-old campus near Friendship Fountain. But another option that's been evaluated by MOSH would be to build the museum at a different downtown spot.
MOSH's future came up during a DIA meeting as board members were voting on a redevelopment deal for the neighboring River City Brewing Co. restaurant site where a parking lot has 30 spaces set aside for museum-goers.
DIA board member Oliver Barakat said one of the moving parts in that area of downtown related to public parking is that "MOSH is in flux and we don't know what's going to be replaced if MOSH does leave."
City Council member LeAnna Cumber, who is the council's liaison to the DIA, said after the meeting she understands MOSH has been looking at another downtown site across the St. Johns River on the Northbank.
"I have heard preliminary discussion of MOSH moving over to the Northbank, but I also understand they are continuing to move forward on MOSH 2.0," Cumber said.
MOSH leaders could not be reached for comment.
The city owns two parcels of property in that part of downtown. One parcel is home to MOSH and the park centered around Friendship Fountain. The other tract owned by the city is the location for River City Brewing and a parking lot that offers parking for the restaurant and for MOSH.
Miami-based Related Group wants to tear down River City Brewing and build a 335-unit apartment building and smaller restaurant on that site. The development deal approved Wednesday by the DIA board would require Related Group to provide 30 spaces for MOSH visitors at a new parking garage that would be built as part of the eight-story apartment building.
If MOSH were to move elsewhere, the city still would have control over those 30 parking spaces "and make them available to whoever we wish," DIA Chief Executive Officer Lori Boyer said.
Related Group is on board with that arrangement, said Steve Diebenow, an attorney representing the developer.
He said Boyer "made abundantly clear that even if MOSH left this location, which we personally hope they do not, but if MOSH were to leave, the spots would be available to the city because she did recognize that the park is there and there would be a public use."
Cumber said her understanding of the preliminary discussions about MOSH relocating involve city-controlled land on the Northbank. She said it's in the general area of the Shipyards end of downtown.
"I love having it in my district," Cumber said of MOSH being in council District 5. "That said, I would support whatever makes the museum the best it can be."
She said whether that's MOSH 2.0 on the current site or moving it, "I do think it's critical that a city our size has a world-class science museum that draws in adults as well as kids."
The DIA board approved an incentive package for Related Group's development which adds a restaurant to the concept at the behest of board members.
The restaurant would have indoor and outdoor dining modeled after the Glass & Vine restaurant in Coconut Grove, according to the developer.
The restaurant would not be directly on the waterfront but it would be close enough to provide scenic views of the river with the Northbank skyline rising above it, Diebenow said.
Barakat said he went out to the spot and thinks a grove of Live Oak trees is pretty thick in that area but can be worked around.
"I just don't want to check the box and say we've got a win here for retail and the location is less than ideal for the patrons," he said. "It sounds like we've got a pretty good view corridor from this location."