$7.5 million bond approved to fund renovations at Jackson planetarium, arts center

Plans show the new atrium for the Davis Planetarium.
Plans show the new atrium for the Davis Planetarium.(City of Jackson)
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 2:15 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson has taken a major step forward in its efforts to renovate the Russell C. Davis Planetarium, with the city council approving a $7.5 million bond to help fund the project.

Tuesday, the council voted 5-0-1 to approve the bond, which will include $6 million for the planetarium and another $1 million going to the Arts Center of Mississippi.

David Lewis, deputy director of the city’s Department of Human and Cultural Services, says funds will help cover design costs, as well as some of the next phase of renovations.

“Our bond counsel will work with the city to retrieve the bonds, so we can start drawing down on [them],” he said.

In the meantime, he said the city will continue to secure the rest of the funding for the $16 million project.

“We already have committed $1 million from the Community Foundation of Mississippi’s Shackelford Fund, and another $500,000 from the Junior League of Jackson,” he said. “We have been working with about half a dozen other companies and foundations to secure [additional funding] and we hope to make those announcements soon.”

The city also has $1 million in state money allocated as part of the legislature’s 2020 bond bill.

Renovations include redoing the planetarium’s third-floor exhibit space, seating and lighting, and reworking restroom facilities. New exhibits also will be installed to replace the ones that were last updated during the days of the Space Shuttle.

The last Space Shuttle Mission was in July 2011.

Crews have gutted the interior of the Russell C. Davis Planetarium to make way for renovations.
Crews have gutted the interior of the Russell C. Davis Planetarium to make way for renovations.(City of Jackson)

Plans also included gutting the second floor and redesigning it for use as an adaptive learning space and building a new atrium on the first floor to better connect the planetarium with the arts center.

Renovations were drawn up by CDFL, an architectural firm in Jackson. They also did work on Thalia Mara Hall and the Two Mississippi Museums.

Exhibitions are being done by the Orlando-based Falcons Treehouse. Their resume includes the “Heroes and Legends” exhibit at Kennedy Space Center.

Demolition on the planetarium’s interior has already been completed by Hopkins Construction.

Lewis says he’d like to see a groundbreaking ceremony later this year, but it could come early next year.

“We’re trying to do everything we can before the end of the year. It depends on how we go through the fall,” he said.

Meanwhile, $1 million of the bond will go toward reimbursing the city for installing a new chiller at the arts center, as well as making additional HVAC repairs there.

The arts center is home to several arts organizations, including Opera Mississippi, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Greater Jackson Arts Council, VSA Arts of Mississippi, and the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. The air conditioning was out for roughly a year before the city replaced it.

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