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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 1, 2017 1 year ago

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James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

A passion project from former Raymond James chairman and avid art collector Tom James, the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art will breathe new life into a long-dormant property at 100 Central Ave. in the heart of St. Pete's thriving downtown. It will house about 400 pieces selected from James's 3,000-piece strong art collection, as well as a 120-seat theater, cafe, museum store, catering kitchen and event spaces.

James and his wife, Mary, acquired the property in 2015 for $13.5 million. James, 75, has been collecting art for 50 years — his collection is worth some $50 million.

The building was most recently occupied by Universal Healthcare, which vacated it in 2013. About 80,000 square feet of the building will be dedicated to the museum, with the remainder available as office space and parking. One of the many highlights is an elaborate water feature designed by DEW Inc., an architectural consulting firm that contributed to the design of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan.

• Project: James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art
• Builder: The Beck Group
• Architect: St. Pete Design Group (Yann Weymouth, Harvard Jolly Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects)
• Location: 100 Central Ave., St. Petersburg
• Start date: August 2016
• Projected completion date: Early 2018
• Construction cost: $55 million
• Size: 136,000 square feet
• Challenges: “There were a few things,” says Everald Colas, an architect with Wannemacher Jensen Architects. “It's an existing building with five floors of parking, so we had the challenge of bringing in natural light, which you can only get from the north and west sides. Also, acoustically, separating the museum space from the garage above was something we had to pay attention to. And the water feature - how to get that to perform properly and temper it acoustically so it doesn't echo too much.”
Colas adds that another challenge was having 2,600 pieces of stone shipped from India for the project.

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