SEATTLE – Seattle City Council approved a contribution of $34 million towards a major project at the Seattle Aquarium.
Ocean Pavilion, a 500,000 square foot attraction, will be added to the aquarium to feature underwater creatures from the tropics of the South Pacific. This will include a 350,000-gallon tank with sharks, stingrays, fish and coral reef.
During a city council meeting, Monday, members say the plans for the city-owned aquarium have been in the works for about 25 years. They estimate the project’s groundbreaking will take place in 2021.
“It’s part of a large strategy of what we want the waterfront to become and what role can they city-owned aquarium plays in giving vitality and life and fun and excitement and education and connection to the health of the ocean,” says Bob Davidson, CEO of the Seattle Aquarium.
In 2015, the city council supported an ordinance to contribute $34 million to the aquarium project, and Monday’s vote cemented the funds.
“Since the city owns the aquarium, they want to make sure the city has kin in the game. And so, this vote reflects that the city is serious in stepping up for a $34 million investment,” says Davidson. “They believe in the importance of it. They believe in the transformation of the waterfront and also the reconnection of the city to the water and especially to the oceans beyond.”
Davidson says the Ocean Pavilion could open as early as 2023. He explains the county and the state already committed a combined $10 million. Davidson also mentions the aquarium set a goal for 2019 to raise $20 million in private funds and donations for the year are reaching $25 million.
Davidson says the tank will be located indoors for aquarium visitors. He also explains there will be parts of the pavilion people will be able to view from the sidewalk.
“Without even buying a ticket you’ll be able to look right up into the coral canyon and see the sharks and the rays swimming right above your head. And that will hopefully entice people to actually come in to see the rest,” says Davidson.
The pavilion will cost $113 million to create. It’s part of the city’s long-term plan in revitalizing the waterfront.
“Always in that conversation has been the assumption that there would be an expansion of the aquarium. And so, this reflects those decisions which were made a long time ago in terms of the concept of what should the new waterfront encompass,” says Davidson.
“The city [has] had a long-standing vision and policy to reclaim that as our front porch. This is really about bringing Seattle back to the waterfront. It’s really the waterfront where our city started,” says Marshall Foster, director of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront. “20 acres of new parks to serve the whole city and region and major new transportation connections to help people get in and out of downtown faster and efficiently.”
Foster says many projects along the former Alaskan Way Viaduct will finish in phases through 2024 with some to be completed as early as the next couple of months.
“A lot of people remember going to summer nights on the Pier, which is a concert series that we did down on the waterfront. We haven’t been able to do that for a decade because that pier was in really bad shape. We’ve just finished rebuilding it and it will be opening to the public at the end of February,” says Foster.
Foster also explains Always Way will be rebuilt, expected to be finished by 2022.