Organizers with the National Hurricane Museum & Science Center have $2 million, and they met Monday to discuss strategies for raising the additional $66 million they need to fully finance the project.
“It is going to be a coalition of partners,” said Robert Sullivan, vice president of Chora, fundraising consultant for the project. “It is definitely going to be a government-funded organization. This is a hard time to go to the government and say, ‘Can you help us?’ but we have a strong case.’’
After raising money through donations, project coordinator Jill Kidder said the board is putting together a “hot list” of major donors. She said the list has more than 100 names of organizations, companies and people who are local, regional and national in scope.
“We had an excellent meeting with the board,” Kidder said. “We really have a tactical plan of action.”
Sullivan, who has more than 20 years of experience with the Smithsonian, said the museum is an investment, not a charity.
“Through research, education and conservation, this is a national-quality project which distinguishes it from anything else,” he said.
Sullivan defined the project as a “national education center and electronic hub” with a research function that will collaborate with educational resources.
“This is a new kind of museum, a brand-new institution. A lot of people will look at this model as the science center of the future,” said Maria Elena Gutierrez, president of Chora. “There have been many feasibility studies. The private and public funding will come together. This is the right time and right location; now we just have to raise the money.”
The board is confident the funding will come together over the next few years.
“Sixty-eight million dollars is the cost to make it happen, and we are going to get the money,” Sullivan said. “In the next 18 months to a year and a half — all the stars will align and the money will come.”
Sullivan said ideas like this “find money and things happen.”
“Because this is such an economic, educational and research engine people will immediately see the value,” Sullivan said. “We’ve just finished the master planning phase, which is a $2 million phase to get the architectural plans and the exhibition plans, so we’re now ready to go.”
Kidder said she is appreciative of the local support of the center. In October 2011, voters passed a referendum to allocate the lakefront property to the project.
“This is an ambitious goal, but it is one that can be met,” Kidder said. “I share the same sense of optimism as our fundraising consultants.”
Sullivan calls the center “a big game changer for the lakefront” and a “huge tourist destination” with national quality, adding that this is not “a traditional museum.”