1M Gallon, $45M Aquarium Announced for St. Louis Union Station

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Exterior Daytime FINAL

Union Station will soon be home to the St. Louis Aquarium. Lodging Hospitality Management, owner of the iconic train station will announce today that construction will begin soon and the approximately 80,000 sf, 1M gallon aquarium could open in 2018. The $45M project is in addition to plans to bring a 200ft Ferris Wheel to Union Station, and other projects.

While a final agreement with an operator has been made, the aquarium is likely be similar in size and features to the Sea Life aquariums in Kansas City, Orlando, and six other U.S. cities. Those aquariums, however, are smaller than plans in St. Louis with the $15M Kansas City attraction coming in at 260,000 gallons and 28,000sf, and Orlando at 25,000sf. A shark tank is planned as the St. Louis aquarium’s largest single attraction, and could top half a million gallons. An event space would be anchored by a view into the shark tank and be available for private events.

While the cultural attractions in the city’s Forest Park, with the St. Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Science Center, and St. Louis Art Museum, provide a full day or more visit for families, downtown is aiming for something similar. The aquarium will have an admission price and is not planned to be part of the St. Louis Zoo Museum District, which supports the above institutions as well as the Missouri Botanical Garden. With a newly expanded Jefferson National Expansion Memorial museum and arch grounds, new Kiener Plaza and City Garden sculpture park, and City Museum, there could be a critical mass of attractions.

Plans for a Fire & Light Show at a renovated lake under the train shed could open this year. A light show projected on the train shed panels will play every 30mins. Existing a restaurants are planned to remain, with a new boardwalk giving better access, and a cantilevered net providing a hammock space above the water. That part of the project is being designed by Groudswell Design, which completed the lauded Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia.

train park 4train park 2

Changes are coming the Union Station Hotel as well, with 32 new rooms being added in the clock tower section of the building. That $5.5M project will increase the hotel’s total rooms to 571 and is planned to be completed late next year. Additional meeting rooms and event space will be added to the station’s Midway also.

Chicago of course is home to the largest aquarium in the Midwest, once the largest indoor aquarium in the world. Opening in 1930, Shedd Aquarium now has 5M gallons under its roof and is one of the most visited aquariums in the nation with approximately 2M annual visitors. The Georgia Aquarium (2005) is now the largest at ~8M gallons attracting ~2M visitors each year.

Exterior Night FINALShark TubeTankStingray

In January of last year, the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen gave support to $18.5M in Tax Increment Financing over 23 years for an “amusement park” at Union Station. The TIF PlanTIF Agreement, and TIF Note were passed more than a year ago.

A 1985 remake of Union Station as a festival marketplace was a big success, but the site failed to evolve and adapt to changing shopping habits, and the loss of about 200,000 city residents, nearly 40% of the population since it opened. The new plans by LHM, which acquired the property in 2012 for $20M, is a big bet on tourism.

Wheel 1 From HighwayWheel 2Wheel 6Wheel 4

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From our previous reporting: $100M Remake of Union Station Moves Ahead, Ferris Wheel Included

train park 1

The next big redevelopment of St. Louis’s historic Union Station is set to break ground next month. Planned are more hotel rooms and more entertainment, including light shows, a fire show, and a 3D experience.

Past plans for a roller coaster are no more, but the 200-foot Ferris Wheel is still planned, and the historic train shed will see a full restoration. The total project is expected to be near $100M.

Recent investments at Union Station, such as the Grand Hall laser light show and specialty train excursions have proved popular and so the larger redevelopment plan was tweaked to capitalize. Most retail tenants, save a Cardinals shop and The Fudgery, are expected to go, again according to the Post-Dispatch.

The Ferris Wheel will be similar to SkyView Atlanta, which features 42 enclosed gondolas and rises 200 feet above Centennial Park. The Union Station Ferris Wheel is planned to open in 2018. Also planned are shipping containers converted to accommodate food venders and a new pedestrian entrance at Clark Avenue and 18th Street.

US Ferris Wheel{looking east on Eugenia Street toward the train shed – image by Paul Sableman}

The $50 million phase one included renovation of the historic Grand Hall, which also serves as the lobby for the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. The Grand Hall, with its sweeping archway, fresco and gold leaf detailing, mosaics and art glass windows, stands 65 feet at its tallest point.

Union Station grand hall{the immaculately renovated Grand Hall is home to a laser light show}

The second phase will also include historic rehabilitation. LHM intends to renovate the 11.5-acre train depot shed. Noted engineer George H. Pegram designed the enormous single-span train shed. It was not only one of the largest train sheds ever built, but it also covered the greatest number of tracks at the time it was constructed.

Earlier this year, LHM announced an excursion train billed as the Polar Express, based on the popular children’s book, would depart Union Station. The train rides begin November 22. The idea has proved to be popular. Last month, half a dozen additional dates were added to the calendar.

Union Station - St. Louis, MO{a small pond with boat rentals and adjacent restaurants fills part of the shed – image by Paul Sableman}

{a view of the shed looking north across the existing parking lot}

Union Station - St. Louis, MO

*top image by Paul Sableman – pasa47 on Flickr

Continue reading: $100M Remake of Union Station Moves Ahead, Ferris Wheel Included

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Full announcement 08/09/2016 by Lodging Hospitality Management:

ST. LOUIS – August 9, 2016 – Something fishy is happening at St. Louis Union Station. Today, Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) announces the next phase of development at the National Historic Landmark train station in downtown St. Louis – the St. Louis Aquarium.

Construction is planned to begin in fall 2016 with an anticipated completion in fall 2018.

“All of us at LHM are excited to bring this highly anticipated attraction to St. Louis,” says Bob O’Loughlin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lodging Hospitality Management and owner of St. Louis Union Station. “The St. Louis Aquarium will anchor the development that will transform St. Louis Union Station and reposition it as a family attraction destination similar to Chicago’s Navy Pier.”

The 75,000-square-foot St. Louis Aquarium will be located in the former mall area within St. Louis Union Station. The $45 million attraction will feature one-of-a-kind exhibits and tanks with one million gallons of water housing thousands of aquatic species. A shark tank holding one of the largest collections of sharks in the Midwest will be a highlight of the new attraction. The exhibit will feature a Shark Bridge, a unique V-shaped rope bridge that will suspend visitors just inches above the 385,000-gallon shark-filled tank. For guests brave enough to walk across, the Shark Bridge will offer a thrilling vantage point above the sharks, stingrays and hundreds of fish.

The attraction will be open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. One million visitors are expected annually.

The St. Louis Aquarium will be an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which holds members to the highest standards in animal care and exhibition. The facility will employ an animal husbandry team of marine biologists and aquarists responsible for the long-term care of the animals in the exhibit as well as overseeing water chemistry, animal nutrition, veterinary care, education, staffing and safety.

The aquarium will be an exceptional educational experience for school groups and an entertainment destination for local and out-of-town visitors. An 8,500-square-foot private event space will feature the Shark Tank as a backdrop for weddings, social events and corporate parties.

The St. Louis Aquarium will be part of a $70 million family entertainment complex located at St. Louis Union Station. Other components will include the previously announced St Louis Wheel, a 200-foot-high observation wheel with 30 fully enclosed, climate-controlled and ADA-compliant gondolas that seat up to six adults each. Wheel passengers will take three to four rotations high over the St. Louis skyline during the 10-to-12-minute ride. The St. Louis Wheel will be a new iconic attraction on the St. Louis skyline and will be operational every day of the year.

Other phases of the entertainment complex at St. Louis Union Station are underway in an area beneath the historic train shed that will be known as The Train Park. The Train Park will feature food and beverage concessions served out of train cars and shipping containers, the Fire & Light Show at the Lake, the St. Louis Wheel, the Hard Rock Café and Landry’s restaurants, and new retail and family attractions.

The first phase of development – the Fire & Light Show at the Lake – will open by November 2016. The show emanates from nine fire pods submerged in the watery pool. Tube lights, hung from trees in the Train Park, and a light show projected onto the ceiling panels of the train shed above the lake, will create a display synchronized to music on view every 30-minutes on the hour.

A new boardwalk around the lake will allow guests to stroll completely around the water and connect to both the Hard Rock Café and Landry’s restaurants. A cantilevered net lounge will be installed between the restaurants where guests can relax in a hammock-style lounge that hovers above the lake to view the Fire & Light Show.

The Train Park and Fire & Light Show are being created by Groundswell Design of Philadelphia. The company recently completed the popular Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia. That attraction was recently named in the national media as one of the best places to visit in Philadelphia and has become a popular gathering space for locals and visitors alike with floating gardens, colorful hammocks and food and drink from local restaurants. To learn more about Spruce Street Harbor Park, visit the website at www.delawareriverfront.com.

Enhancements also are continuing at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel which will add 32 new hotel rooms beneath the clock tower section on the Market Street side of the building’s northeast corner. Construction on the rooms will start in January 2017 with completion by fall 2017. The hotel currently offers 539 rooms and will increase to 571 rooms when the $5.5 million project is completed.

The hotel also will add 15,636 square feet of new meeting space by expanding the Midway east to 18th Street. Six new breakout rooms ranging from 1,600 to 2,835 square feet will be added along with another 8,700 square feet of flexible event space created with one of the shark tanks as a backdrop at the cost of $3.5 million. Construction on the meeting space will begin in January 2017 with completion by fall 2017.

About St. Louis Union Station

The National Historic Landmark St. Louis Union Station at 1820 Market Street in downtown St. Louis opened to the public on September 1,1894 and was owned by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. Designed by Theodore Link, it included three main areas: the Headhouse, the Midway and the 11.5-acre train shed.

The Headhouse originally housed a hotel, a Fred Harvey restaurant, passenger waiting rooms and railroad ticketing offices. It featured a gold-leafed Grand Hall surrounded by Romanesque arches and topped with a 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows. Union Station’s Headhouse and Midway are constructed of Indiana limestone and initially included 42 tracks.

At its height, the station combined the St Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world. It was the world’s largest and busiest railroad station when it opened in 1894 and its train shed was noted as the largest roof span in the world. In 1903, the station was expanded to accommodate visitors to the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair.

Today, the station includes the AAA Four Diamond St. Louis Union Station Hotel, a DoubleTree by Hilton. The 539-room property features four unique ballrooms, beautifully appointed guest rooms and specialty suites, and the elegant Grand Hall featuring an award-winning 3-D projection mapping light show and a 65-foot-long bar.

St. Louis Union Station is owned by Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM). The hotel has been named one of the world’s top railway themed hotels by Condé Nast. For information, visit www.stlouisunionstation.com/union-station-hotel/.

About Lodging Hospitality Management

Established in 1986, Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) is an independently owned and operated lodging and hospitality management company. The largest privately held hotel company in the St. Louis region with 5,000 guest rooms,

LHM has expanded its portfolio over the past 28 years to include 17 hotel properties including upscale, independent and brand-affiliated hotels, eight restaurants and two commercial properties. LHM has acquired and repositioned such iconic hotels and real estate as the Hilton at the Ballpark which features Three Sixty, one of the 10 Best Rooftop Bars in the World; Union Station which features a popular holiday train ride and the award-winning 3-D light show in the Grand Hall; and The Cheshire Hotel, which includes the new restaurant Boundary, as well as dining spots Basso, The Fox and Hounds Tavern and Starbucks.

LHM contributes heavily to the St. Louis region in philanthropic ways by supporting the St. Louis Zoo, Police Foundation, Logos School, Pathways to Independence, United Way, The Boy Scouts, the American Cancer Society, and many other charitable entities. For more information, visit www.lhmc.com

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  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    I am digging this..it must be utilized and evolve into a new space b/c the Union Station is a work of art and has tons of history to exploit in a sustainable way. An Aquarium and Train show..with a Ferris Wheel offers three huge attractions and people who love and collect all things like this.

  • rgbose

    An Olympic-sized pool is 660,000 gallons

    • Alex Ihnen

      Which makes a 1M gallon aquarium seem rather dainty, but the Sea Life Orlando aquarium is ~250,000 gallons and 25K sf, 1/4 and 1/3 the size of STL plans. Having been through it in March, I’d say it didn’t feel huge, but with lots of smaller tanks, a couple medium size tanks, and the big shark tank, it kept the family interested for close to two hours.

  • John

    I think this development is good news, and I am going to be positive and upbeat about this new, exciting and much-needed enhancement at St. Louis Union Station. I hope the aquarium will be as nice as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The shark exhibit will certainly be a draw for business. I hope this development is first class and stays well-maintained for decades to come. We need more quality, long-term assets in downtown St. Louis. I am enthusiastic! Not thrilled if there is TIF financing, but realistically, it probably wouldn’t happen without one.

    • John R

      It won’t be nearly as big as Georgia Aquarium but I think the overall attraction has a lot of potential. It’s another reason to come downtown beyond the usual suspects of Cards games, etc. and extend stays and spending. If it does hit the 1M visitor mark as projected that would be pretty solid (and twice the attendance of a Rams football season.)

      I suspect something could have moved forward for the shed area that could have helped reinvigorate things w/ more limited subsidy — but I support this more than say the Ballpark Village deal.

  • choo

    Everyone is commenting about what is going into union station. I think the real problem is not what’s going in, but what is going around union station.

    Most of the comments seem to be more directed at a transit oriented union station renovation – such as the one in downtown denver, chicago, etc.. this is not going to happen unless there is a reason to bring the people there. Other than the event venues to the east, there are not many reasons to be in this area of the city. You are 10+ blocks from the dense area of downtown, 5+ blocks from the dense residential on Washington. The blocks in between are not very inviting. there is a sea of interstates, parking lots, railroads, and a questionable end to the mall.

    While an aquarium probably isn’t great for locals, I think it would probably hold its own for 20-30 years. after that, we will be having this conversations again. Maybe by this time, they will have more residential and businesses in the blocks north of the site, which by then it might make sense to make this into an entertainment/retail district with a transit root. until then, i think this project is adequate for any expectations to use union station now. An aquarium would also benefit the city with an influx of tourists that may sway their decision based off the many family friendly activities St. Louis has. let’s not forget to mention this project is (for the most part) privately funded.

    • Tim E

      I think you get to the point on how vital it is to get the 22nd street interchange rebuilt and street grid back into place the sooner the better because a vision for the immediate area needs the 22nd failed parkway to go away as quickly possible & embrace the area..

      What is a big difference then say Arch Grounds and immediately to the north in Laclede’s landing is that MoDOT wants the failed 22nd parkway attempt to go away and into the hands as much as the city does. West Downtown truly has a golden opportunity with NGIA coming immediately to the north and opportunity to change infrastructure in a meaningful way with or without a MLS stadium. Time to make it happen instead of daydreaming for McKee.

    • STLrainbow

      Yeah, unfortunately with the urban renewal madness Union Station largely was rendered an island and leaving it in a difficult position. It is nice to see things like the residential rehab of the old tobacco warehouse and the decision of Momentum to relocate from the burbs to the Anthem Health office building (both on the other side of Aloe Plaza) but we need a lot more activity and infill to really have that part of downtown west be a vibrant place. Hopefully hopes for 22nd Street infill becomes a reality.

  • TJ Pan

    It boggles my mind to imagine people in a boardroom thinking about how to pump life into downtown, and somehow a FERRIS WHEEL takes center stage in conversation. Talk about death by committee. How about making it a real ‘union station’ again and send trains through? How is this any different from what was there in the 90s? Why did that fail? St Louis proves each decade that it is a playground for the unimaginative and status quo.

    a.) Combine the fcking county and city.
    b.) Focus on fixing the goddam crime and blasting this plan in everyone’s mind
    c.) Make business and investment more attractive for the city core
    d.) Eliminate the Cargill building across the river. (symbolic move)
    e.) Stop being little baby boomer btches, and make heed for younger generations in leadership.

    • Tim E

      Can understand your points but really directed at city and political leadership not a boardroom
      As far as Union Station, LHM is a for profit business in the lodging and Hospitality sector that revived the hotel, has been adding rooms since, and looking at add for profit attractions not mention in all this is rehabbing of the Grand Hall and next the Shed itself. I would say the +100 million dollar investment already and more coming from the boardroom has been a big plus…. so kinda confused who you are directing your comments too

      • TJ Pan

        Sure, it’s definitely a plus and overall good thing. Of course. It’s directed towards Slay and his connections, assuming they are the great overseers, and assuming the goal of every project in the city is aimed an overall bigger scheme to grow.

        I don’t necessarily see this as a silver bullet project, but I do see it as a sign that people back home still can’t seem to get it. Unless you create an aquarium that is actually…amazing…then what’s the point? It’s like the Ikea chase to me, the having what other people have checklist. There are SO many activities to do in Stl for families. It seems something like this will just cannibalize the other ones. Maybe I’m wrong. I had good memories as a kid going to Union Station (but did get old).

        If for example this article was … “St. Louis Rerouting Train Traffic Back to Union Station”… I would actually have hope in the city. Omg, they’re starting to get it back home. I might just move back. Or “St. Louis Developers Plan to Convert X into World Class Riverways Aquarium in Partnership with Missouri and Amazonion Conservation Teams”, I would get excited. But a Ferris wheel…well gee, looks like a whole lotta the same BS I ran away from… Just sayin.

        • citylover

          I get where you’re coming from. I like the aquarium, but why don’t we make ours the best? How bout bigger than the Shedd aquarium? Not on par with KC’s and Indy’s.

          • Adam

            You should probably ask the people who are actually spending the money to build the aquarium, which isn’t “us” or the city.

          • STLrainbow

            I’m not even sure we could build something on par with Shedd or Georgia Aquariums at the Union Station site… those facilities are huge in area. But it should also be noted “we” are subsidizing the project with an extra generous TIF..

          • Adam

            I’m not sure I would call TIF subsidizing, exactly, but I’m guessing the size of the TIF would increase in proportion to the size of the aquarium.

          • John R

            Of course TIF is a direct subsidy…in this particular case, LHM has been granted a larger-than-normal TIF of about 30% of total project costs of approx. $60M (normally TIF doesn’t exceed 20%) and will be able to keep $18M in taxes that otherwise would go to local govt. (It also has been allowed to assess additional sales taxes than normal thru TDD and will be receiving some Historic Tax Credits for the shed.)

          • Alex Ihnen

            This would appear to be planned as 3x as large as the one in KC, and I’m not aware of an aquarium in Indy.

        • Tim E

          Unfortunately, train travel for the scale that the shed was built to accommodate are simply over. Self driving electric cars will be the future except for some select inter city rail service and air travel. Heck, I think bus travel has either been stagnant or declining between towns & cities. The cost & convenience of personal transportation is simply in the reach of a lot of people such that viable rail service will be limited to larger metro centers or mega regions.
          Nor is Union Station be practical for even current rail service or even expanding upon current rail service. Not saying that current situation is greatest for travelers but it does make it very practical for River Runner or Lincoln Service simply to pull onto a siding and stop, embark and disembark travelers. Not having to pull in or back in, or deal with the past idiotic TRRA agreements on entering Union Station, so on… MoDOT, ILDot or Amtrak are not advocating for return to Union Station because it doesn’t make sense from an operational standpoint.

          • TJ Pan

            Do you work for LHM? Just out of curiousity. 🙂

          • jhoff1257

            Everything Tim said is exactly correct. Amtrak abandoned Union Station because not only the cost maintaining such a massive building for just a few trains a day but the stub end terminal setup makes for unnecessary delays with regards to moving trains around. Also, the Gateway Station may not be as architecturally significant as Union Station but it serves MetroLink, MetroBus, Amtrak, Greyhound and local taxi service. From a functional stand point Gateway is far superior to Union Station. It’s also on the proposed N/S Metro alignment. And if trains not running though Union Station is worth running away from an entire city there probably isn’t much St. Louis could do to please you. Lots and lots of good things are happening in the city. I’d even argue that the city is seeing some of its best days right now in decades, just imagine how much better it could get. The wheels are turning. Also we’re never going to fix crime. Never. Until our local, state, and federal governments fix poverty, poor education, lack of upward mobility, and our outrageous income inequality crime will persist. Crime itself is not a problem, its the result of many different problems that Americans have refused to address for generations.

          • STLEnginerd

            I think that expanding the new Amtrak facility off the now defunct wherenberg theatre that is tucked under the interstate would have been a much better option. It’s current placement is so blah that visitors don’t immediately get a real sense of what St. Louis offers, and that is a shame.

          • Tim E

            Nope, just a part time railfan who happened to live along METRA Aurora line in Chicago suburb before St. Louis and now my career has taken me to the Bay Area where I wished I worked in San Fran Financial District as I sit in traffic trying to get to my office somewhere else as BART cruises by.
            ..
            Just don’t see St. Louis of having the scale, scope, core job center to really see Union Station as the huge vibrant rail hub it was once. A lot of the big old grand trains stations that still see such rail traffic have huge commuting crowds whether it be Union Station in Chicago, or Union Station in DC or Penn Station or Grand Central Station in Manhattan. In terms of transit I think Bi-State/city really need to look incorporating a new metrolink station if 22nd interchange is rebuilt to replace the old parkway
            ..
            So I think LHM and the city have to be pragmatic going forward. Getting the Great Hall back into shape and expanding the hotel footprint was a big win in saving iconic structure. Now, as a lot of people noted is how do you put the vibrancy around it back.

    • Brian Wallner

      Union Station failed as a shopping mall in the 1990s, because county folks didn’t see the need to pay $10 just to park when they could park for free at any of the numerous shopping malls throughout the county….

      • STLEnginerd

        I agree. Union station failed as a mall because of the parking cost. If they could have eliminated that I think it would have possibly survived.

    • STLEnginerd

      Yeah Ferris wheels are kind of played out, but what’s even more frustrating is the fact that this location isn’t even a particularly good place for a Ferris wheel. The arch is far, you don’t see the front of union station which is its defining perspective, you aren’t amount the impressive building or Busch stadium. It would be terrible if the ride was a big disappointment which IMHO it almost surely will be.

      I think a – c are hugely important, and d would be great but I’m not sure how it happens without and ridiculous invest on that side of the river, and e really just sounds like whining.

  • Ice_Burned

    The St. Louis Zoo and MOBOT do some serious science behind the scenes in addition to what visitors see. I’d like to see a research or biology education dimension to this project tied into local universities and regional river aquatic life. If it’s solely for entertainment, it could get very tacky in a few years. You need people pumped about aquatic biology working in these places over people who work at say Six Flags. Mystic Aquarium in CT is a great example of how to do an aquarium right. http://www.mysticaquarium.org/about-us/

  • matimal

    Why does this strike me as something from the 90s?

  • Chicagoan

    I don’t know about the aquarium, but I think the expanded hotel and Ferris wheel are great ideas. A permanent people presence, even in the form of hotel rooms, is a great thing. Navy Pier is having a complete re-do and one of the big ideas is adding a hotel on the pier to do just this.

    A Ferris wheel is good, too. Most cities are making an investment in theirs, though I think there’s a fine line with them and building one too big is a poor choice (Ahem, Las Vegas.). It’s just kitsch.

    Also, as said on here, I’d love to see the Union Station Metrolink station moved westward under Union Station. It’s so close to the Civic Center Metrolink Station. This doesn’t seem likely, but it’d be cool.

  • Thom

    If this actually sees the light of day, finally, Saint Louis thought of something smart to bring into the city. For anyone that has been to the Saint Louis Zoo knows the sting ray petting area and seal lion shows are a major attraction that people flock on. This is a market that has yet to be tapped and is about time. I give this idea two thumbs up!

    • TM B33

      I wish they would have built it as the largest in the world.

      • Thom

        The largest in the world is a tie between the one in Atlanta, GA and the other in Malysia. Sadly both aquariums are far to large to fit where union station exists. The great thing about this project is it will provide hands on education, produce a new generations of local students that want to become marine biologists. This does not include the amount of revenue this will bring to the city of Saint Louis. As everyone is aware the Saint Louis Zoo makes a killing on the seal show and sting ray and baby shark petting area. It is just my opinion, but think this is one of the smartest moves the city has done in a long time. As they are combining an attraction with education in the heart of a dying city. A city that continously sees the county get everything as more and more people move out of a city once home to 800,000 people.

        • STLrainbow

          The dying city comment reminds me of Twain’s “the report of my death was an exaggeration” quip. Like the County, the City has both declining, static and growing areas.

  • Roobah

    Great for tourists. Not so great for locals who live in that immediate neighborhood — just what I need a million gallons of water and sharks in my neighborhood. I tend to agree with others who say that’s probably not the most ideal solution. Of all the aquariums I am aware of around the country, maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of them have really been very successful (Sea World comes to mind as the latest disaster.)

    As a neighbor to Union Station, I’m still holding out for a grocery store in the Downtown West neighborhood — that would be more useful and sustainable to me. I’m betting even the tourists wouldn’t mind that. Target, Aldi you know, something like that? You know, something practical?

    I do enjoy having a nice view of the Union Station Tower. I imagine adding a ferris wheel might make for an interesting addition to my view.

    • TechLegend

      On Lafayette, there’s a good grocery store. You want a Target? Go drive to Brentwood. The thought of an a common superstore over an attraction is crazy… think growth and big picture, not conveniences.

      • SnakePlissken

        As a resident of Downtown West I’d somewhat agree with Roobah. While I’d rather not have a Target or box store – an Aldi or affordable fresh market within walking distance would be great. Try walking 15+ blocks back from the absurdly overpriced and yet, subsidized Culinaria with several bags of groceries. Drive to Brentwood? F*ck that. I’ve taken the train to Brentwood from US but have you tried to navigate that poorly planned development from metro? It’s awful. I’m not asking for the train to stop inside of Trader Joe’s but it’s incredibly difficult to navigate, very uninviting.

        i personally love what LHM has done to Union Station (my wife and i routinely visit Grand Hall), more resident services are needed. But that said, Downtown West needs well, more residents first, more infill, more development… and it will. Downtown West will see significant growth by 2025 – NGA, MLS, “22nd street” land for development. With US to the South, Tap Room as a solid anchor in its core, NGA to the North, Wells Fargo and Midtown to the West.

        Downtown West, Midtown and Grand Center could showcase innovative build and architecture projects… if done right.

    • choo

      yes – because aldi is a known real estate driver for communities…

  • STLRainbow

    Not my ideal solution for Union Station but I think this has a good chance of working out pretty well. Should be a nice addition to the growing number of attractions downtown and it appears ticket fees will be reasonable ($12-$20 range is being reported) so that is a plus as well. Also, an additional themed-restaurant may go into the old Houlihan’s space, so that might be a good home for something like the Rainforest or T-Rex cafes that are popular with families.

  • Paul Hohmann

    This is great for Union Station!! On question: Anyone been to World Aquarium since it re-opened on the Landing? I’m assuming this will put it out of business for good… yet another nail in the coffin to kill off the Landing after spending $400 million right next door at the Arch.

    • STLRainbow

      I haven’t been to the small World Aquarium but I’m not convinced it ever had potential for good attendance. But while on the Landing, it sure doesn’t seem like the Arch project has resulted in any momentum in the Landing or other surrounding areas as promised. I suppose maybe it could be argued some of the boutique hotel announcements but even that’s a stretch imo.

      • Tim E

        I think the Landing will be about Convention Center/Ballroom expansion as reason for Drury Family to pull trigger on a tower once floated. Tropicana is doing well and putting dollars back into hotel room. Just need a good project to kick start some decent residential/info and or hotel rooms

        I still think a water park tied to a downtown hotel would work, I wonder if someone will pick up the idea on the landing now that LHM went for the aquarium

      • Paul Hohmann

        No, in fact the Arch project has done a great job of destroying one of the main access points to the Landing, Washington Avenue. Combined with other construction mess and telling people to get off Metro at 8th Street instead of the Landing stop, the Landing has done nothing but suffer from what should have been a great shot in the arm for a district that admittedly was in need of a new identity other than nightlife.

        • rgbose

          The Landing needs less highway infrastructure and more people living within and nearby.

          • John R

            living and working within and nearby…. speaking of which, anyone know how that Spinnaker start-up/co-working plan is going for the old Metro HQ Building?

          • Justin

            I agree. I bet the removal of I-44 from downtown would do wonders for the Landing

        • JB

          Probably not fair to assess how the updated Arch grounds will affect the
          Landing before the Arch grounds are completed. It certainly was going to be a short term hit on the area, since it was totally isolated during the bulk of the work. Will probably take some time to really see how it interacts with its renovated neighbor.

          I agree with some
          comments above that the Landing’s time will come in the relatively near
          future to be redefined into something more than a dated nightlife hub.
          The basic framework is there to make it a walkable, urban pocket that
          has some built-in advantages being next door to a landmark. It has the
          mixed-use components in place if residential opportunities were to ever
          take hold.

          And if it should ever progress to a point where growth is warranted, it has a natural corridor on the north riverfront.

          Whether
          it’s the long-discussed Drury tower or another savvy development, if
          the right project targets that area it could gain some momentum
          quickly.

          • John R

            I agree that it is still early, but otoh you’d think investors would be making plans clear by now if they really thought the project was a transformative one… e.g. compare to some of these streetcar projects like in KC & Cincy where investors undertook ambitious developments in anticipation of the line opening. Here, nothing is really happening whether in the Landing or elsewhere that has been attributed to the Arch project.

        • It continues to amaze me how much LL has been shafted during this project. Closed Washington Avenue (for good), closed Memorial Drive (for good), closed Wharf Street (temporarily), redirected 3rd Street traffic to Carr (temporarily). Add in the Landing’s cobblestone replacement project that closed down 2nd Street to vehicle traffic for a year, and you really only have/had Laclede’s Landing Blvd as a thru-street!

          There’s been a lot of turnover in businesses the last five years, and some hanging on for the promise of increased activity. Hopefully the north Archgrounds project provides that once completed, but it sure seems CAR is trying to reorient all or most vehicle/pedestrian traffic to the Gateway Mall.

          If I were working for the Landing (again), I’d be pushing CAR/JNEM for a regular rubber-wheel tram (think Universal Tour!) to carry people from the Arch proper up into the district!

          • John R

            I think you could add the Metro HQ move to the CBD along with the aborted replacement garage plan on the Drury parcel to the list of grievances to be aired during Festivus.

    • Ben Harvey

      I don’t think that the Landing has much more to gain from tourism until it becomes it’s own self sustaining mixed use neighborhood. The days of being a nightlife destination are long over. The bones are there, now it is about filling in the holes with good development.

      I personally am not worried about the Landing, while it’s time may not be now, with it’s proximity to the Arch and downtown it’s just a waiting game for the area to pick up again.

  • Imran

    Another Silver bullet. Rejoice!
    As long it does not ruin the future chances for trains to return to Union Station I’m fine with it.

    • Billikens&Bricks

      This.

    • jhoff1257

      I don’t know that I’d consider an aquarium a silver bullet per say, at least not on the same level as other silver bullet projects this city pursues. After seeing what has happened to Union Station over the years I think the only way to turn it into a successful development is a major anchor like this. A little shopping mall and a fudge shop isn’t going to draw a lot of people when those things are available everywhere in this region. I think an aquarium bodes well for Union Station’s future. As far as trains, I’m with you there, but I highly doubt we’ll ever see intercity passenger (or even a local commuter system) use Union Station. The stub end set up does us no favors and the hotel cut off half of the remaining platforms from the World’s Fair addition on the west side. I think the only trains we’ll be seeing are excursion trains.

      • Imran

        I generally don’t like ‘stand alone’ attractions that will be supported by thousands driving in and driving out. I would rather see us use tax incentives to improve the streetscape, create tree-lined bike lanes, sidewalks that encourage pedestrian to linger around Union Station and a form-based code that encourages mixed use buildings to fill all the gaps the last 60 years have created in downtown. THEN talk about fire and light shows! Will not be holding my breath for this one.

        (I do agree though that this is less of a silver bullet than the Rams stadium) .

    • Tim E

      I don’t see it as a silver bullet at all. I think LHM has actually pursued Union Station in a much more sustainable way by focusing on the hotel first/grand hall first and go from there. Even the next round and best part in my opinion is added hotel rooms in the clock tower and expanded, refurbished conference room, meeting space as well as the sheds refurbishment. .
      ..
      The train park idea is more cosmetic more than anything. I would rather see more excursion trains and believe a dedicated dinner train would be successful out of Union Station for most of the season. As far as passenger trains returning, I hate to say it but those days are long gone.

  • Daron

    Awaken the mold and rust the rafters! This boondoggle will have to be rescued by the zoo or the humane society one day, and it will seriously damage Union Station. We don’t need a third start-up aquarium without the funds to run as a proper institution.

    • Alex Ihnen

      This would appear to be along the lines of the Sea Life aquariums and other similarly sized efforts that have done well in other cities. Could it run into financial problems? Sure. It would seem to be better planned and funded than the World Aquarium that left City Museum, or the effort in Springfield. I’m not saying there isn’t reason for skepticism or concern, but trashing the concept today seems premature.

      • Daron

        Half the investment comes from a TIF and the rest is borrowed. They’re planning to pay it off with revenue, but maintenance and staffing are going to be very high if they want to do it right. The aquarium will also probably be paying money into the building management and not the other way around. It could be a boutique thing for a while, but until I see a permanent independent funding source like a substantial gifted endowment, I’m going to be doubting them.

        I’m also pretty confident that all that water is going to find its way into the building over time. I’ve seen a lot of crappy aquariums in malls and underground bunkers, and all but the largest and best funded seem like the stuff of nightmares to me.

        • Tim E

          I would disagree, believe the aquarium proposed is being based on a for profit business model just as LHM/Union Station hotel is operating off. I rather see it developed as is with TIF versus an endowment entity that completes with other non-profits for dollars. Do you lose out some tax revenue its generates, yes. But they are also adding hotel rooms which turn around and generate tax revenues.
          ..
          Much different then World Aquarium on Landing trying to drum up $25 million, add some side shows and hope to cover expenses. I think LHM is in much better position to deliver a decent aquarium that will sustain itself even though I like the landing as a better location for an aquarium. As far as plumbing, water, and so on. That is all in the location, design and quality of construction & materials being used.

  • Michael C.

    Incredible news for downtown St. Louis and for Union Station. This is one of the greatest developments of the decade and will spur millions in economic growth for downtown. I am curious to see further development around Union Station and Downtown West neighborhoods. The central corridor is alive and well.

  • Ben Harvey

    I hope the revamped metro stop pops up inside of the station in the middle of the action.

    • Me too! An easy argument could be made that, as of today, the Civic Center and Union Station platforms are too close together — moving this one so it’s entirely underground, with entrance/exit from Union Station proper, makes a lot of sense.

    • Tim E

      That would ideal. I would even take a relocated station on the west side of Union Station as part of a rebuilt 22nd street interchange proposal.

      Time to put together and move forward on a vision for a rebuilt 22nd interchange/West Downtown street grid with continued investment in Union Station, NGIA coming to N. St Louis, and the MLSSTL committee making an effort to land a pro soccer team. Unfortunately, believe this is part of McKee’s northside plan that aldermen signed onto.