A conservation, education and research centre has got the go-ahead at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. The US$3.5 million project was awarded as special permit at a hearing of the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission on May 2.
The two-storey, 18,000 square-feet research facility will be called the Milne Center for Ocean Science and Conservation. Plans are to break ground in 2018, once fundraising is completed. The building, which will have public exhibits and viewing areas, will be connected to the existing Aquatic Animal Study Center. The first floor will feature a large area where newly arrived animals can be acclimatised before being moved into exhibits. In addition, it will include a conference room and lobby. The second floor is set to include a mezzanine that overlooks the animal holding area, three classrooms, office space and bathrooms.
Mystic Aquarium president Stephen Coan told the Planning and Zoning Commission the project is not designed to increase visitor numbers. Currently it attracts an annual attendance of 750,000. Rather the conservation centre will allow the aquarium to meet current accreditation standards for fish holding and education. Commission members approved the permit after requesting two weeks to examine additional details about wetlands, drainage and water discharge plans.
The Milne Center is one of the first parts of a planned multi-phase update of the institution and its exhibits. Mystic Aquarium officials hope to spend between $25 million and $50 on improvements over the next decade.