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Cal Poly, Central Coast Aquarium eye Morro Bay waterfront

Credit Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach
A sea anemone on display at the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach.

Plan are in the works to give the Morro Bay Aquarium a whole new look as the current owners do not plan to renew their lease, which expires in four years.

About six months ago, the City of Morro Bay put out a “request for proposal” or RFP to anyone interested in taking over the aquarium's lease site and redeveloping it as a marine education center. So far, only one party has expressed interest.  

“The Central Coast Aquarium is the lead organization that’s going to be submitting the RFP, but we are looking to partner with other organizations that are a natural fit with what we do,” said Tara Malzone, the Executive Director of the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach. She is talking with the National Estuary Program, Cal Poly architecture students and the Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences about partnering on the project.

Morro Bay City Council heard a statement from the Central Coast Aquarium at Tuesday night’s meeting. The proposed design for the new space was presented by a master’s level architecture student from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

City Councilwoman Christine Johnson called the presentation encouraging and exciting.

Students currently work closely with the Central Coast Aquarium, but Professor Dean Wendt, director of Cal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, says the Morro Bay location would offer increased opportunities.

“Students would be involved in research and taking course work there,” Wendt said. His program is currently in the process of adding a Bachelors of Science in Marine Science. “Having an on-the-water facility in Morro Bay would be a great attractor for new students and for our program." 

Malzone says the project is ambitious and would cost upwards of $10 million. “I really believe that if we can build this aquarium it will not only bring visitors to Morro Bay but people will actually be able to view and study marine life like they haven’t before,” she said. 

The City Council is expected to make a decision on the lease site by the end of this year.

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