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Cotuit

World-Class Aquarium in the 'Ocean State'?

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Andy Rourke: An aquarium for the Ocean State

Thursday, January 13, 2005

PALO ALTO, Calif.

CONSIDERING its coastline, rich fishing heritage, and the uniqueness of Narragansett Bay, it seems almost ironic that the Ocean State lacks an aquarium.

Since 1973, Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium has served as a surrogate experience, pulling ocean lovers out of Rhode Island, and dragging tourist money over the border. But those who have grown up in the Ocean State know that Rhode Island's coast is an experience all its own, and certainly worthy of a community center and tourist attraction that exhibits its natural, cultural and historical features.

This past summer, I took the new fast ferry out of Quonset Point and thought to myself, "What a perfect place for the Ocean State Aquarium!" The location would draw Providence and Newport visitors to the center of the state, channeling tourist revenue through Warwick, East Greenwich and North Kingstown.

Quonset Point's road infrastructure and recent development have made the area easily accessible by the potential crowds, and its location does not threaten local neighborhoods.

It would be only about 10 miles from the University of Rhode Island, which could be a major benefactor and research partner, considering the university's world-renowned program of oceanography.

The site seems ideally situated, about midway up Narragansett Bay, with a beautiful view that few currently have an opportunity to admire.

Above all else, an Ocean State Aquarium would offer Rhode Island an ideal economic buoy, while serving as an educational and cultural center for natives and visitors to enjoy.

For the past year and a half, I have had the privilege of being a board fellow for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in Monterey, Calif.

During that time, I developed a comprehensive economic-impact study to determine the influence of the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the local and regional economies. The Monterey Bay Aquarium receives about 1.7 million visitors a year (and 80,000 schoolchildren), with more than 95 percent coming from outside of Monterey County, 30 percent from outside California, and nearly 10 percent from outside the United States.

As a result, the aquarium is a powerful economic engine, bringing money in from far away and distributing it locally to its 400-plus regional suppliers and vendors, and 400-plus employees (a diverse group, including researchers, program managers, producers, technicians, construction workers and many others). Visitors to the aquarium stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and buy from local merchants. All of this represents income for the state treasury. All in all, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has an annual economic impact of roughly $170 million on Monterey County and $250 million on the state of California, excluding tax generation.

Even on a small scale, the economics of an aquarium are compelling, in addition to the cultural and educational benefits.

I grew up down the street from the aging Quonset Point, hearing about all kinds of proposals including incinerators, jails, shipping ports and casinos. Wouldn't it be nice to build something for all Rhode Islanders to be proud of -- something that represents a tribute to our invaluable natural resources and reflects the unique culture of our state? The economics are certainly compelling.

Andy Rourke is a student at the Stanford University Business School, in Palo Alto.

From The Providence Journal

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whats up everyone who reads this... ive been reading most of this site for the past month now. ive wanted to chime in from time to time, but time constraints and work keeps me from delving in too much, but had a few minutes today, so i figured why not, especially with all this speculation going on...

here are a few questions for you planners and/or architects out there...

1- why doesnt the ocean state have a museum dedicated to the ocean? this never made sense to me, especially when you go on a class trip to mystic aquarium or new england aquarium and you see how mediocre they are. it baffles me that a state with a renowned oceangraphic program at its state university, limitless access to the bay and ocean, and a -real- demand for museums and entertainment has never had this proposed or considered. maybe its not the economic engine that a casino would be, but wouldn't it be a great compliment to the other attractions in our tourism industry?

2- what is goin on with the old trolley barn/narragansett brewery warehouse on cranston street? i have a lot of family ties to this area and i have driven past this place atleast 5000 times in my life. it seems like such a great site, but also a decent looking building that harkens back to the trolley car era, which everyone seems to want to time-warp back to. ive heard that it was supposed to have been converted to a corp. HQ's for a broadband company a number of years back, but this industry has moved faster than its plans. recently ive heard it might be the new cranston police station, which seems silly to me because its on the Prov border and for cranston police to get anywhere in cranston they'd have to drive down rt 10- thru prov!- to get to eastern cranston, or up thru olneyville and johnston to get to the western neighborhoods of cranston. as far as trolley systems go, this site was a hub for that particular activity long ago if i'm not mistaken. growing up part of my life on cranston street in the arlington neighborhood, i wondered why cranston street is so wide and even about other roads like broad street, allens ave/narragansett blvd. years later i found out that this is so because these neighborhoods were some of the trolley car suburbs of Prov. understanding how our state grew due to factors such as the trolley should guide how we plan any new public transit.

3- how long has this site been running? ive seen it since around new years, but why wasnt this around in some form many years ago? there seems to be such an appetite for it and i know, personally, that 95% of the ideas you guys have talked about i have thought about or planned myself when i was growing up. studying maps of prov and rhode island, looking at old pictures, visiting obvious and obscure neighborhoods, speaking with older generations, etc. have all added to my interest in architecture and planning and even made me look silly to my parents and friends. they all must not have seen what you guys, the forum readers and posters, and i have seen for so long- the potential for this area to be overcome so much and be among the best.

either way, keep it up... these discussions are really great for rhode island and new england as a whole... i am also envious :thumbsup: of whoever started this Prov. forum and whoever created artinruins because a few years back in college we threw ideas out for sites like this and nothing ever came about or was discovered. i gtg back to work, but i'd like to discuss 1000 other ideas at some point. you guys just scratched the surface!

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Welcome Dave, thanks for jumping in.

1- why doesnt the ocean state have a museum dedicated to the ocean? this never made sense to me, especially when you go on a class trip to mystic aquarium or new england aquarium and you see how mediocre they are. it baffles me that a state with a renowned oceangraphic program at its state university, limitless access to the bay and ocean, and a -real- demand for museums and entertainment has never had this proposed or considered. maybe its not the economic engine that a casino would be, but wouldn't it be a great compliment to the other attractions in our tourism industry?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Bil at A Cry For Help has speculated on this on his blog. I'd like to see New Bedford get it's aquarium, but that seems like it's never going to happen, so I agree, we should have one.

2- what is goin on with the old trolley barn/narragansett brewery warehouse on cranston street? i have a lot of family ties to this area and i have driven past this place atleast 5000 times in my life. it seems like such a great site, but also a decent looking building that harkens back to the trolley car era, which everyone seems to want to time-warp back to. ive heard that it was supposed to have been converted to a corp. HQ's for a broadband company a number of years back, but this industry has moved faster than its plans. recently ive heard it might be the new cranston police station, which seems silly to me because its on the Prov border and for cranston police to get anywhere in cranston they'd have to drive down rt 10- thru prov!- to get to eastern cranston, or up thru olneyville and johnston to get to the western neighborhoods of cranston. as far as trolley systems go, this site was a hub for that particular activity long ago if i'm not mistaken. growing up part of my life on cranston street in the arlington neighborhood, i wondered why cranston street is so wide and even  about other roads like broad street, allens ave/narragansett blvd. years later i found out that this is so because these neighborhoods were some of the trolley car suburbs of Prov. understanding how our state grew due to factors such as the trolley should guide how we plan any new public transit.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Last I heard that building had a date with the wrecking ball unfortunately. :(

3- how long has this site been running? ive seen it since around new years, but why wasnt this around in some form many years ago? there seems to be such an appetite for it and i know, personally, that 95% of the ideas you guys have talked about i have thought about or planned myself when i was growing up. studying maps of prov and rhode island, looking at old pictures, visiting obvious and obscure neighborhoods, speaking with older generations, etc. have all added to my interest in architecture and planning and even made me look silly to my parents and friends. they all must not have seen what you guys, the forum readers and posters, and i have seen for so long- the potential for this area to be overcome so much and be among the best.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

UrbanPlanet started life as SkyScraperAmerica about a year and a half ago. The Providence section has existed on it's own for about a year, maybe less. When we upgraded the software it allowed us to have subforums within subforums so I pushed for a Providence division within New England. I wasn't sure if it would ever attract any traffic, but at least I would post to it, and for a while, that's all there was, me. Some people were lurking and would comment every so often (Garris, glassandsteel...). Around the end of December we started seeing a small trickle of people posting more regularly, and after last months big announcements, the flood gates have opened. There's a lot of people out there who have a lot to say about the future of Providence. Everyone at UrbanPlanet is happy to provide that place.

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where would you guys put the aquarium? i guess there could be a case to put it in roger williams park. its got great access to the highway and to similar attractions. i would say that the newport area is a serious possibility, but since i'm all for adding attractions to the the hub of the state, i'd say put the aquarium right next to the "never gonna be finished" heritage harbor museum. then you could take the arts museum that another poster has suggested and stick that in one of those horrible looking parking lots near the courthouse. now you'll have the risd museum and its expansion, benefit street houses and such, which are basically smaller museums anyways, and someone could have rhode island's mini version of a smithsonian trip all within sight of each other.

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i'd say put the aquarium right next to the "never gonna be finished" heritage harbor museum.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I read somewhere recently that the Heritage Harbour people are looking for a new site (whatever :rolleyes: ). So I say put it in the Heritage Harbour power station site. New Bedford's proposal is for a similar waterfront industrial building (maybe even a former power station, I can't remember). Plenty of room for large tanks in there. It's also a hop skip and a jump to the Children's Museum making for a good little musuem zone down there.

Wherever we built an aquarium, it would have to be on the water.

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Wherever we built an aquarium, it would have to be on the water.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It *should* be on the water, but a lot of aquariums get built any old place. I think Mystic's is inland, though I'm not 100% on that.

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It *should* be on the water, but a lot of aquariums get built any old place.  I think Mystic's is inland, though I'm not 100% on that.

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Isn't the Mystic one right on 95? If we had an "Ocean State Aquarium" it would have to be on the waterfront.

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Cotuit, you remembered!

Ironically I came to UP today to link it in a post, and saw this entry, which made me realize all my old pictures are probably broken since I've switched hosts so much.

So DaveRPI, if you check that link to A Cry for Help now, my proposed site is there. We'd have to move the tug boat dock, but I'm sure we can stick them somewhere.

Now Cotuit (or anyone else), do you remember ever seeing a sketch of a giant lighthouse on that spot? Maybe it was from the Old Harbor Plan? Did I make that up? I can't exactly remember. Anyway, a giant (3 or 4 stories) lighthouse could easily be integrated into the aquarium, and the views from the top would be spectacular. Plus it would be iconic, and a little kitschy.

I see a bright future for The Bil Herron featuring Emily Providence Aquarium, except for that pesky funding thing (I'm open to a name change, I guess).

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Now Cotuit (or anyone else), do you remember ever seeing a sketch of a giant lighthouse on that spot? Maybe it was from the Old Harbor Plan? Did I make that up?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You might have made that up. :unsure:

I see a bright future for The Bil Herron featuring Emily Providence Aquarium, except for that pesky funding thing (I'm open to a name change, I guess).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

We can call it the Buddy Cianci - Peter Griffin Aquarium, since it will sit across the bay from the new ballpark of the same name. :silly:

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We can call it the Buddy Cianci - Peter Griffin Aquarium, since it will sit across the bay from the new ballpark of the same name.  :silly:

Ok, I don't know what that's in reference to, but on May 7th, 2002 I posted this on the old bil.com:

Here's my proposal to further reinvigorate the city's renaissance and to move the Red Sox closer to me. Check it:

pvd-sox.jpg

1. Route 95  2. New Route 195  3. Hurricane Barrier 4. Parking  5. Alan Shawn Feinstein New Fenway Park

Balls hit over the Green Monster would go into the Bay, and Allens Avenue would have to clean up its act and stop being the sex capital of New England. What do you think?

I screwed up with the highway, but thems the breaks. Also I'd nix the parking lot, but I'm not going to whitewash the past.

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Ok, I don't know what that's in reference to....

I'm assuming then Bil that you aren't a big "Family Guy" fan.

In response to the Aquarium, I'd say that once we get those gas tanks off the face of the city then Allen's ave would be a good area for it. It would at least have to be south of the hurricane barrier so you could have more direct interaction with the surrounding waters. Perhaps the Russian Sub would benefit from this a little bit also.

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Ok, I don't know what that's in reference to

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Providence Sports. That location seemed to be the consensus on where a ballpark/stadium should go.

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That is eerie/hilarious. That is *exactly* what I was thinking in my sports thread post on Hasbro/Peter Griffen Park.

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I'm assuming then Bil that you aren't a big "Family Guy" fan. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I love Family Guy. That's why I was surprised to hear about a stadium named after Peter on some episode I'd never seen!

Now that I've read the sports thread I'm all caught up. I'm still easing my way in, and you guys are posting more than I keep up with!

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1- why doesnt the ocean state have a museum dedicated to the ocean?

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I think the state was considering it, they should be sure to plan it well. I've heard from different sources that the once great Boston Aquarium will be closing forever soon.

2- what is goin on with the old trolley barn/narragansett brewery warehouse on cranston street?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Paolino owns that property. Expect the "Trolley Mall" to be built there soon.

Do you remember ever seeing a sketch of a giant lighthouse on that spot? Maybe it was from the Old Harbor Plan? Did I make that up?

I dont know about a lighthouse, but there used ot be a great big smokestack on the top of the South Street Power Plant. Check it out:

stack.jpg

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I've heard from different sources that the once great Boston Aquarium will be closing forever soon.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

:blink:

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I think the state was considering it, they should be sure to plan it well. I've heard from different sources that the once great Boston Aquarium will be closing forever soon.

Paolino owns that property. Expect the "Trolley Mall" to be built there soon.

I dont know about a lighthouse, but there used ot be a great big smokestack on the top of the South Street Power Plant. Check it out:

stack.jpg

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Now THAT is cool...

as are the east side tunnel pics...

you are an EXCELLENT urban historian, AIR!

good job.

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you are an EXCELLENT urban historian, AIR!

good job.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thank you very much.

I've got a "lost and found" building coming soon called the American Screw Company that used to be between Charles and North Main, right where the Mohassuck apartments are. Pretty cool. Used to be the largest screw manufacturer in the world (turn of the century).

Ever peruse the Library of Congress for photos? American Memory has a great database of stuff, and a lot of them are from the HABS/HAER database. The Historical American Buildings Survey and the Historical American Engineering Record, a group of volunteer photographers and historians doing National Register work. They've got some amazing shots.

Like this:

145737pr.jpg

It looks like it was shot from the top of the Superman building... notice the area where the mall is now, to the left and below the state house. remember the huge bridge span behind Union Station? Stuff like this to me is the coolest. Photo was taken by Wm Edmund Barret in 1982-3.

Anyone who can help me recreate this shot for a great before and after gets... well, I'll think of something.

The link for Providence Union Station is here:

LOC.gov/ProvidenceUnionStation

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I've heard from different sources that the once great Boston Aquarium will be closing forever soon.

Where do you hear this? There's no way Boston would allow the New England Aquarium to close. It's one of the city's major tourist attractions.

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Where do you hear this?  There's no way Boston would allow the New England Aquarium to close.  It's one of the city's major tourist attractions.

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I know, crazy, but this is the buzz I have just heard from people who have no authority in the matter... I haven't found anything on the interweb to back it up...

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You do know that if this were to happen, there would be a proposal here within the next week and an aquarium within a year or two. Folks would get on this like vultures. What better way to steal some thunder from Boston before the Mayors Convention in 2009? Everything would be falling into place by then, the bridge, new towers? Oh! A shiny new aquarium! That aquarium closing is the most direct way we would get an aquarium in Providence.

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That aquarium closing is the most direct way we would get an aquarium in Providence.

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All except for the fact that The New England Aquarium will never close. I just can't believe that would happen. They just completed a major expansion. It's a vital marine research facility. The main building and exhibits are in major need of renovations/updates, but it would totally boggle my mind if it actually closed.

Aside from the New Bedford proposal there is a proposal by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to build an aquarium/educational facility on the Cape, most likely in Hyannis. It's rather at the Heritage Harbor stage right now, as in a lot of people have said a lot about it, but nothing has happenned.

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Does anyone know the latest on the plans to refurbish/reconstruct the botanical gardens? Last I heard there might be some progress on refurbishing in lieu of the costs involved in realizing the NBBJ proposal.

Also, has anyone ever considered building an aquarium at the Narragansett Electric site south of Sackett Street? It seems like Narragansett Electric is outgrowing the facilities over there anyway, and will probably want to move. It's got about the same footprint as the Boston and Mystic Aquariums. It could be realized as a joint facility between the three (sharing resources, research, and professional staff). In addition, it could easily be connected via tunnel to the Zoo (always good for family visit packages). The Zoo and Aquarium might potentially have expansion ability into the RIPTA bus storage area and Elmwood Ave frontage in the distant future.

It's important to realize that for all of the hotel, shopping center, loft, and dare I say casino growth, there also needs to be expansion of the free public amenities to support the surge in population that all brings. People visit and move to cities not because of great hotels or casinos, but because of things like parks and museums and zoos/aquariums. Providence also has good food and people, but that's another topic.

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