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12 Oct 2017
Sir Tim Smit heads up new project as Jurassica and Memo join forces
By Tom Anstey
Sir Tim Smit heads up new project as Jurassica and Memo join forces
Jurassica will now join forces with Memo for a new biodiversity project

The long-awaited Jurassica project is taking a new path towards realisation, joining forces with biodiversity project Memo to create a single visitor experience.

Sir Tim Smit is behind the reimagined venture, named 'The Journey', with the Eden Project creator coming onboard to steer the development into this new phase.

The £80m (US$105.6m, €89.2m) Jurassica – a subterranean geological park on the Isle of Portland, Dorset – was the brainchild of Michael Hanlon, who died from a heart attack in February last year. Following his death, the project’s board, which had backing from Smit and Sir David Attenborough, made a unanimous decision to press forward, promising to bring Hanlon’s “thrilling vision” for the prehistoric attraction to life.

Memo – the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory – was a proposed 'living monument', designed to raise awareness of 17,000 global species under threat from extinction. The landmark, also in Dorset, would have been made of Portland stone blocks, each carved to depict the 850 species lost since 1662, when the last dodo was seen.

The Journey was originally envisaged as a £30m (US$39.6m, €33.5m) project designed as a monument to extinction. However, it has been downsized and will now form a £16m (US$21.1m, €17.8m) biodiversity scheme in the disused Albion Stone mines, which will feature an underground Jurassic rainforest.

“The ambition for us all is to create something genuinely world class in the mines beneath Portland to present biodiversity, evolution and the art of seeing the world anew in the most theatrical and possibly the most appropriate setting on earth, the Jurassic Coast,” said Smit. “It is our collective ambition too that this should be the catalyst to the creation of educational facilities that will, in turn, incubate opportunities for the island for years to come.”

Smit added that more details about the project would be revealed before the end of the year, adding that funds have already been secured to develop a planning application.

As a result of the merger, the Jurassica Trust will dissolve, with its project co-ordinator Alison Smith joining the team from Memo. All of Jurassica's assets have now been transferred to The Journey. The new vision for the attraction is predicted to attract 325,000 visitors a year, creating 79 full-time positions.

“We have always known our futures lay together in some form,” said Tracey Brown, chair of trustees for Jurassica.

“In the past year, we have been developing our respective projects with gathering speed. The opportunity created by this momentum, together with the pressure of two sites in Portland, makes a strong case for us to join together now.

“The combination of our visions will be greater than the sum of their parts, making this into one of the UK’s most exciting projects to be undertaken since the turn of the millennium.”

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