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The new face of Seattle’s Aquarium (maybe)

The Seattle Aquarium released its Master Plan For Expansion this week, rolling out a proposal that would increase exhibit space by at least 40 percent and cost a minimum of $90 million. Our favorite part is the Shark tank.

The biggest addition is the Tropical Pacific Pavilion (which would house the shark tank). It would rise to the east of today’s aquarium, connecting the waterfront with the Pike Place Market. The pavilion would allow nearly twice the number of visitors as today.

If all goes according to plan, the expansion would include renovations to Pier 59 and a renovation and expansion of Pier 60. Currently, these house all the aquarium’s activities: exhibits, veterinary care, research facilities, classrooms, the café and the gift shop.
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With the proposed renovation, Pier 60 could also accomodate two of the planned eco-region exhibits: Puget Sound and Outer Washington Coast. Aquarium officials say the pier would probably be rennovated after the Tropical Pacific Pavilion.

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Pier 59 would create better public access, offering visitors a view of Elliot Bay from the western edge of the piers. It would also help circulation and traffic patterns.

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The aquairum wants to make it easier for visitors to move between buildings by creating a central “hub” space. They’ll probably move their pier entry to the north, connecting it with the Tropical Paciifc entry.

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The expansion is part of Seattle’s waterfront project. The aquarium partnered with City of Seattle Office of the Waterfront and the Department of Parks and Recreation to develop the plan. (You can download it from their website.) If Seattle’s City Council approves it, the aquarium can move past the preliminary stages of design and in to phasing options and environmental reviews.

The aquarium originally opened in 1977. Since then, it has had more than 25 million visitors. Last year, the aquarium had over 811,000 visitors.

“We don’t think anything stands in our way, but [the City Council] will want to know that we have public support for this plan and we have received public input from all stakeholders, which we have,” Director of Public Affairs Tim Kuniholm says. The council approved a 2012 Waterfront Strategic plan, including a renovation for the Aquarium. But the Aquarium project has been revised since then.

City Council members will vote on the plan on Aug. 3. The Aquarium expects a “favorable response”. The plan recommends timing the expansion to begin at the same time as Overlook Walk, in 2019.

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