As the St Pete Pier construction continues, hurtling towards an early 2020 debut, the St Petersburg Museum of History has announced plans to renovate the existing museum and construct an 8,000 square foot addition.
The expansion will make way for a state-of-the-art exhibit gallery showcasing the history of St. Pete and Florida, a visitor’s center and rooftop terrace overlooking the waterfront.
“We have the opportunity to create a premier museum that not only shares the history of the Sunshine City, but also the unique history of the entire state right here in St. Petersburg,” said Executive Director Rui Farias. “Our goal is to create a visitor experience that will educate, entertain and leave our guests wanting to come back for more.”
The project will be completed in three phases. The first phase is already underway and entails adding fire sprinklers to the existing building and renovations of the current main gallery.
Phase two, scheduled to begin in October, includes the construction of the 8,000 square foot two-story addition that will sit in front of the current museum building.
Phase three will consist of a series of smaller enhancements to the existing museum spaces including staff offices and the archives and collections areas on the second floor.
During the recent renovation of the main gallery space, a beautiful terrazzo floor was discovered under a carpet and years of glue. It’s estimated the terrazzo floor was from the original construction of the building in the 1950’s.
The first floor of the expansion will house a welcome center, a museum gift shop and a conference room. The Museum of History plans on providing a central location where millions of visitors to downtown St. Petersburg and the Pier District can collect information on what the rest of Pinellas County has to offer.
Visitors will not only be educated on various cultural activities, but also have the opportunity to purchase admission tickets to other cultural venues such as Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum and the Florida Holocaust Museum.
The new 4,000-square-foot interactive, state-of-the-art main gallery will be located on the second floor, showcasing the stories of the people of St. Petersburg, Pinellas and Florida, and how this history fueled the growth of our Nation. Each exhibit segment will have the mobile capability of changing out artifacts and digital story boards, allowing the Main Gallery to share numerous and various stories throughout the year. Once the new main gallery opens, the larger gallery space in the current museum will host a wider range of culturally diverse exhibits.
The rooftop terrace of the expansion building will provide breathtaking views of the Pier District, the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and the beautiful waterfront. It’ll be the perfect venue for Museum, private and community events.
The St. Petersburg Museum of History’s renovation and expansion will be a public/private endeavor. The goal is to raise $7 million to fund the development. The Museum has already received a $1 million commitment from the City of St. Petersburg and is awaiting news on county and state grants.
“With six spectacular museums within walking, or at least biking distance, of each other downtown, we have truly become a cultural center.” Farias said. “Visitors from around the world will be able to come to St. Pete and spend days in our museums as well as our beautiful beaches and vibrant downtown.”
The expansion of the Museum of History comes at a time of unprecedented change for the Pier District. Construction on the new St. Pete Pier continues with an expected opening in early 2020. Recent photos of the construction show a substantial amount of progress including windows being installed along the pier head structure, the construction of a solar canopy, which will provide shade over the marketplace, and the planting of hundreds of new trees. You can finally begin to make out certain aspects of the pier including the new pier access roads and parking lots.
While construction of the pier has been underway for over a year, the city just recently began construction on a new gateway to the Pier District. For the next six months 2nd Avenue North between Beach Drive and Bayshore Drive will be closed. The block is expected to undergo a transformation which includes wider sidewalks, new trees, light poles, and place making bollards. The purpose of the Pier District gateway project is to create a better pedestrian connection from Beach Drive to the new St. Pete Pier.
Once complete new St. Pete Pier is expected to draw nearly 1.7 million visitors per year, according to a 2017 economic impact analysis. 42% of those visitors are expected to be out-of-town guests with an expected economic impact of nearly $80 million per year.
Additionally, The Florida Department of State reported that of the over 100 million tourists who visit the state each year, 65% take part in cultural/historical heritage experiences such as the St Petersburg Museum of History. Those guests are more likely to stay longer and spend more money.
The Museum of History is expected to wrap up construction on the exterior of the expansion prior to the pier opening in March of next year. However, most of the interior work will not be complete until May/June of 2020, just in time for the St Petersburg Historical Society’s 100th year anniversary.