Although the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science compares favorably to the Houston Museum of Natural Science which inspired it, the Dallas facility needs to expand to compete long-term, Hillwood Chairman Ross Perot Jr. says.
“We’re newer, so [we’re] better. But we’re smaller, so we’ve got to grow now,” Perot said in an interview Saturday at the museum’s “Night at the Museum 2012” fundraiser. “We have the land available here to grow, easily to triple or quadruple the size of this building. As long as the community loves it and is behind it, [the museum] will continue to grow and be a great addition.”
It was a $50 million “lead gift” from Perot and his four sisters in honor of their parents, Margot and Ross Perot Sr., that helped jump-start the Dallas museum in 2008. “My mother basically went to Houston, we went to Houston, we toured the Houston museum, and she told us, ‘I want to do this,’ ” Perot recalled. “And so when my mother says she wants to do something, we get it done for her. My sister [Carolyn Perot Rathjen] is chairman of the [Dallas museum] board. Hillwood managed construction of the museum. We sold them the land. So it all worked out well.”
Perot said the $185 million museum came in debt-free, ahead of schedule and under budget partly because of the leadership of Forrest Hoglund, the capital campaign chair, and partly because of its attractiveness to corporate donors. “A museum of nature and science is a great product to sell,” he said. “Because all the technology companies like it, the energy companies like it, the sports companies like it. And you have such a draw, you have 3 million children a year going through the building. It’s so educational and grassroots.”
The Perot Museum is the latest of several projects that have changed the city “radically” over the last decade, Perot added. “Look at how much we’ve done for Dallas in the last decade—we the community—from the Arts District to the deck park to museums to the Calatrava [bridge] to American Airlines Center, the whole Victory cleanup,” he said. “Now we’ve gotta keep it up. The next big push is the Trinity [River Corridor Project]. We’ve talked about it for a long, long time, and we’ve gotta get it done.
“And then hopefully we’ll get the office business back, where tenants will pay the rate for new buildings,” Perot said. “As soon as tenants will start to pay the rate for new buildings, we should have a great next generation of office buildings coming. So, offices will be the next boom. Multifamily’s doing great. Multifamily sites are pretty well picked over. So now we’re back to office. And that’s what I’m looking forward to.”