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New details emerge about museum expansions as Pinellas commissioners advance funding

Margie Manning



The Salvador Dali Museum is St. Petersburg's leading tourist-visitation museum. Photo provided.

Three St. Petersburg museum projects that could bring thousands of additional visitors and millions of additional tourism dollars to the area are one step closer to getting funding from Pinellas County.

The county’s Board of County Commissioners approved recommendations from the Tourist Development Council to spend up to $20.6 million to fund the three projects —expansions at the Salvador Dalí Museum and the St. Petersburg Museum of History, as well as construction of the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center.

The funds would come from the Pinellas County tourist development tax, or bed tax, a 6 percent tax collected on accommodations in Pinellas County rented for less than six months.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater will negotiate the terms and final funding amounts to all three projects to ensure a return on investment before commissioners take a final vote.

JLL was hired to review and evaluate the projects and earlier reported that collectively they would add about $28.8 million to the local economy by 2022, draw abut 253,000 new visitors to the area and account for an extra 42,700 room nights in hotels.

Supporters revealed new details as they talked about the economic impact of each of the project during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

• The Salvador Dalí Museum’s planned parking facility is “future-proofed,” said Hank Hine, executive director. It could be converted to usable museum space in upcoming years, when visitors might be less dependent on cars, he said.

The museum plans to spend $38 million for an expansion that would add 10,000 square feet of new exhibit space, 10,000-square feet of multi-purpose and classroom space, and a 270-space parking garage. The Dalí is asking for $17.5 million from the county.

The proposed expansion (southeast facade).

The Dalí currently is the most visited art museum in Florida, with 400,000 annual visitors, said Trevor Burgess, museum board member and chairman of Neptune Flood in St. Petersburg.

“The Dalí brings the world to Pinellas County and to St. Petersburg, because 75 percent of our visitors come from someplace else,” said Karen Lang Johnston, chairman of the museum’s board of directors. “The Dalí brings our community to the world. Right now we have over a dozen works of art on loan in Europe, and annually we have hundreds that go abroad, and all of that brings people back to us.”

Hine expects to break ground in April, with the project completed in 22 or 23 months.

• The St. Petersburg Museum of History has a major exhibit in the works, after it completes construction of an 8,000-square-foot, two-level expansion.

St. Petersburg Museum of History

The museum is laying the groundwork for the exhibit by building a relationship between Pinellas County and Lincolnshire, England, said executive director Rui Farias.

“We’re still in line, as long as we follow our timeline to get everything built, that we would have our first exhibit come from England in October 2020 and in January of 2021, would be the opportunity for us to bring the Magna Carta here,” Farias said.

The expanded museum will have a ground floor level featuring a Pinellas County visitor center, a gift shop and conference area. The second level would have 4,000-square-feet of exhibit space and a 3,500-rooftop area overlooking the Vinoy and the St. Pete Pier District.

The project cost is $6.8 million, and the museum is requesting $2.8 million from the county.

The St. Petersburg City Council last week approved a new, 10-year lease for the museum. The museum hopes to put a referendum on a future city election ballot asking voters to approve a 25-year lease, Farias said.

• The Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, which is building a 2,900-square-foot facility on the new St. Pete Pier, has hired a marketing agency to help with branding.

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center

“We’ve heard there’s a little bit of confusion about what we are and what we will do out there,” said Dwayne Virgint, the newly hired executive director.  “To clarify, we are a museum. A museum essentially focuses on a few areas — history, art, culture, science. We’re more weighted to the science side but we’re addressing all four elements in what we’ll be providing. We’ll have exhibits, we’ll have interactive displays, we’ll have a collection and educational programs … We’ll take a look at the restoration and preservation and conservation of Tampa Bay, and when people come out of there they’re inspired to thought, and they’re hopefully inspired to action. That’s how we will measure our success.”

The new facility will have an exhibition and event gallery, as well as classroom and catering space.

It’s expected to draw 100,000 visitors annually who will learn about the organization’s work to preserve Tampa Bay, said board member Lari Johnson.

There’s a growing number of eco-tourists who want to do volunteer work while on vacation, said Mary Ann Renfrow, board chair. The center will include a nearby restoration site nearby.

The Discovery project will cost $720,000, and is requesting $300,000 in bed tax funds.


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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    November 13, 2019at4:24 pm

    And no new location/new building for the African American Museum????/

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