New $7.5 million building taking shape at Mystic Aquarium

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Stonington — Mystic Aquarium’s new $7.5 million animal care and education building is beginning to take shape on the east side of its Coogan Boulevard campus.

The two-story, 18,000-square foot Milne Center for Ocean Science and Conservation, which broke ground in March, will provide quarantine and holding space for fish and invertebrates as well as two classrooms, a preschool room and meeting and education space that will be accessible to the public. A mezzanine in the public space will overlook the animal care section of the facility that will contain 18 tanks ranging in size from 26,000 gallons for large animals such as sharks to 65 gallons for small fish. It also will connect to the adjacent veterinary and animal health center.

Keith Sorenson, aquarium senior vice president for facilities and capital projects, said Thursday he expects the building to be complete in January 2019 and be ready for occupancy the following month.

The aquarium had discussed a building for the past 15 years and originally it was planned as a research facility with a public education component.

But with aquarium researchers now collaborating with professors and students at Avery Point, the building was redesigned for animal care and education.

During a tour of the building Thursday, Roslyn Gilhuly, the aquarium’s senior vice president for external relations, explained that with aquarium researchers now using the state-of-the-art research space at Avery Point, the new building will help the aquarium best use its existing space, consolidate its education program and expand its capabilities. It also will free up space in the aquarium for possible new exhibits and give it flexible meeting space with seating for up to 200 in the new facility, something it does not have now.

“Currently we have no space during the day for conferences or large meetings without disrupting the guest experience. This will allow us to do that,” Gilhuly said.

The building also will have a small courtyard along the public walkway that will connect it with the nearby Penguin Pavilion.

Last year the state announced it would provide $5 million in funding for the project. The Milne center also is seen as one of the initial phases of what the aquarium envisions as a $25 million to $50 million upgrade of its campus and exhibits over the next decade.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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