Demolition of Mote Marine on Summerland Key planned next week to make way for more-modern facility

This is a rendering of the new Mote in the Keys.
This is a rendering of the new Mote in the Keys.

Walls at Mote Marine Laboratory's Summerland Key property start tumbling down Feb. 18.

"Mote Marine Laboratory will begin demolishing its buildings in the Florida Keys to make way for the construction of its new research and education facility," the organization said in a Monday statement.

David Vaughn, executive director of the Mote base on Summerland, will be joined by Mote President Michael P. Crosby at the ceremonial start of work.

"The demolition team [will be] using a large front excavator to remove a portion of a wall, kicking off demolition of residential and office buildings that will ensue over the coming couple of weeks," Mote says.

Rebuilding the new $5 million research campus is expected to be complete in 2017. Work will be staged so the local staff can continue its coral-restoration and water-quality projects.

"Mote research in the Keys focuses on coral reefs, 'rainforests of the sea' that support thousands of marine species and contribute $6.3 billion to Florida's economy," the organization says. "Reefs worldwide are threatened by climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, disease and more."

Recently, Mote detailed a Summerland Key-based project that speeds time needed for branching corals cultured in a tank to grow from single polyp to a larger coral suitable to transplant on the Florida Keys reef. "Mote's technique allows for restoring large areas of reef-building corals in just one or two years instead of the hundreds of years that some slow-growing corals might need on their own," according to the group.

The complex at mile marker 24 is the southernmost marine laboratory in the continental U.S., according to Mote.

The Sarasota-based organization describes the construction process: "Expansion will involve constructing one new building on Mote's existing property on Summerland Key, which currently includes three buildings.

"Two residential buildings will be demolished, leaving the current working lab fully operational throughout construction. Once the new project is 99 percent complete, the old lab will be demolished and replaced with parking."

New systems will include advanced technology laboratories, environmental control rooms, improved seawater systems, ocean-acidification research facilities, and experimental tanks and instrumentation.

When finished, the complex will have 6,505 square feet of laboratory and offices, plus two residential apartments and six dormitory rooms.