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Plans for Morro Bay aquarium move forward 

The Central Coast Aquarium reached its first milestone to developing a new aquarium on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay.

"The vision we're working toward right now is a complete redevelopment of the former Morro Bay Aquarium site including adding two dock spaces, the necessary Harborwalk improvements that would be mandated with any new development there, and public restrooms," Central Coast Aquarium Executive Director Christine Johnson told New Times.

click to enlarge MARINE EDUCATION The Central Coast Aquarium is working toward a design and architectural plan for a future aquarium in Morro Bay. - SCREENSHOT COURTESY OF THE CITY OF MORRO BAY
  • Screenshot Courtesy Of The City Of Morro Bay
  • MARINE EDUCATION The Central Coast Aquarium is working toward a design and architectural plan for a future aquarium in Morro Bay.

At a June 25 Morro Bay City Council meeting, the Central Coast Aquarium presented its first significant steps on the project. The aquarium has raised $19,000 so far that will go toward an exhibit and architectural design plan, reached out to Cal Poly's marine faculty to gauge their interest in the project, and received bids from local architecture firm RRM Design Group and the Carmel-based aquarium design and builders Tenji Inc.

Johnson told New Times that the Central Coast Aquarium's first quarterly update is right on target with where it wanted to be. When the aquarium started pursuing the project in March, it had zero funding. Now, she said, it's halfway to funding the exhibit and architectural design plan.

On March 12, the Morro Bay City Council approved moving forward with the Central Coast Aquarium's plans to pursue a new aquarium project in place of the former Morro Bay Aquarium.

The approval included a one-year timeline with four milestones. The first was to present the city council with a concept and philanthropic plan within 90 days, which the aquarium did on June 25. After that the city will present a business and marketing plan to the council. The third phase is to present the council with a concept and philanthropic plan update. The Central Coast Aquarium will then present a final report with regard to the further decisions needed to move the project forward.

In April, plans were put on hold as the future potential aquarium was being considered as part of a new development in Morro Bay called Market Street Plaza. But in May, the Central Coast Aquarium board determined that the Embarcadero location was the preferred location.

The next step for the aquarium is to finish raising funds for the exhibit and architectural design plan for the project. Johnson said once they do that, they'll have visuals of the future aquarium, they'll know what the exhibits inside will be, and they'll understand what story the aquarium will tell about the community's marine environment.

With that plan also comes the estimated cost of what it will take to remodel the aquarium.

"We don't have realistic cost estimates, and we truly need that. We're $19,000 away from getting that information, which will then serve as the base to launch the larger capital campaign," she said. Δ

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