Longboat Key, Florida | March 6th, 2018 – There are some misgivings in Longboat Key about the recently announced plan for the transfer of the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium from City Island in nearby Lido Key to the Nathan Benderson Park at the mainland. However, Longboat residents who’ve been hooked on volunteering for this world-renowned facility may not be too concerned about losing touch with Mote and its projects they are fond of.
Mote’s CEO, Dr. Michael Crosby, said not all of their facilities will leave the City Island campus which sits on 10.5 acres on both sides of Kent Thompson Parkway southeast of Longboat Key just across New Pass. Dr. Crosby said they plan to convert the current aquarium there as a premier research laboratory which could accommodate more scientists. In the long term, Mote hopes to bring in an additional 10 PhD-holding scientists plus probably a hundred more recruits as support staff, an influx which should likewise spur demand for local housing.
The conversion of the City Island aquarium into a laboratory will allow this addition of more personnel, according to Dr. Crosby. Renovations and construction of new wings for the facility are to be expected as well, he added. In the long run, Mote’s vision calls for ultimately creating a “Silicon Valley of marine science” that to some extent could help sell our region to folks seeking to relocate to a place with such a unique character.
Longboat Key residents also won’t have to worry much about losing a nearby attraction, as the Mote executive assured that they would still conduct daily public tours at their City Island research tanks and laboratories. Mote’s hospital for the rehabilitation of dolphins, whales and sea turtles will likewise remain, and its activities would continue as among those that would welcome interested volunteers.
One of the volunteer activities which is most unlikely to be affected by the Mote aquarium relocation is the monitoring of nesting turtles, as these creatures flock to the Longboat Key’s beaches yearly. The Longboat Key Turtle Watch is Mote’s partner in this endeavor which has been a worthy cause for community involvement of some local residents.
New Ocean-themed Building
As for the new aquarium, Mote plans to house it in a four-story building on a five-acre site at the Nathan Benderson Park near University Town Center in east Sarasota County. This planned facility shall be named as the Mote Science Education Aquarium or SEA for short. It would be more than double the size of the existing Mote complex in City Island toward west of which, incidentally, are the high-end residences of Lido Shores.
The residents of communities near Nathan Benderson Park, like those at the upscale golf community of The Meadows, should have reason to cheer in having the new Mote aquarium as a new attraction near them. CambridgeSeven, the Massachusetts designer of the facility, rendered a dramatic building with an exterior skin that would project ocean-themed images at night.
The features of the building’s interior would foster ocean literacy through augmented reality and hands-on exhibits in the facility’s aquarium tanks and marine habitats. The groundbreaking of this building, which would have 110,000 square feet of space, is set in 2019, and its completion is expected in 2021.
Money Well Spent
An estimated $130 million will be spent in the construction Mote’s SEA. A fundraising campaign called “Oceans for All” has been launched to raise this amount from philanthropic organizations, public entities and corporate partnerships.
Studies indicate that the new Mote facility will bring a $28-million annual economic impact to Sarasota. This projection is based on an expected 700,000 visitors to the aquarium in its first year and the 600,000 visitors a year seen to come henceforth.
These visitors, besides their direct contribution to the local economy, also add to the base of potential real estate buyers in our region. For this reason, our Judy Kepecz-Hays team share beliefs that Mote’s plans for a new facility is a move in the right direction. This research facility remains very much a part of our local communities and isn’t leaving but in fact expanding its role in our region.