On solid footing, Belle Isle Aquarium plans expansion

Like so much of the city, The Belle Isle Aquarium is seeing renewed investment. While North America's oldest aquarium was shuttered for seven years earlier this century, it's been a popular attraction since reopening in 2012. 

And that's why improvements to the facility are in the works. 

According to the Detroit News, all but a handful of tanks will be open by the end of the year, filled with aquatic species from as far as the Congo River Basin. "[W]ith its operations now securely in the hands of the nonprofit Belle Isle Conservancy," writes Maureen Feighan, "the aquarium continues to reinvent itself with new exhibits and structural improvements."

Other potential improvements include new signage, a walkway connecting the aquarium to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and a new water reservoir system and an electrical system upgrade so tanks can be automatically filled instead of manually by its staff of volunteers. 

The ultimate goal is having all 56 tanks in operation, which aquarium curator Paul Shuert says they are on track to do by next summer. 

One issue that may complicate matters is the proposal by the suburban Detroit Zoo to build its own aquarium along the Detroit riverfront. "Earlier this spring, zoo director Ron Kagan said a plan to build a downtown aquarium has been in the works for 20 years and it can move forward now that the city is out of bankruptcy," according to the article. 

But administrators of the Belle Isle Aquarium, which was built in 1904 and designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn, aren't worried about competition. They believe theirs is unique and will continue to draw visitors regardless. 

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is the managing editor of Model D and a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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