At the start of 2022, after a tumultuous couple of years with closures and mercurial mitigation measures, Chicago’s beloved not-for-profit Shedd Aquarium announced a transformational ‘Centennial Commitment’ that came with exciting plans for a large-scale expansion.
With the aquarium’s 100th anniversary in 2030, the plans involved a $500 million 8-year project that would “prepare Shedd for the next 100 years, transforming the aquarium’s historic galleries, accelerating aquatic science and research, and equitably expanding access to nature for all.” All the cherished aquarium needed was the green light from the Chicago Plan Commission which was finally given this week.
Several important exterior enhancements to the aquarium’s historic building and surrounding greenspace were unanimously approved including activating Shedd’s gardens and augmenting its entry pavilion to help make these spaces more engaging and accessible for guests.
The milestone in Shedd Aquarium’s expansion measures means that onsite construction at the aquarium can now begin in early 2023.
The plan, described as “a bold surge forward that leverages nearly a century of success”, contains several objectives including deeper community investments and partnerships, new educational and experiential programs, a modernized aquarium experience, and compelling digital engagements.
The aquarium will use $500 million in investments over 8 years which will fund the transformation and restoration of galleries and exhibits providing greater, more dynamic, and more accessible entry points to see and connect with aquatic life.
The four-phase construction project aims to conclude in 2026 with many new galleries, programs, and experiences that will open each year building up to the aquarium’s centenary year in 2030.
In addition to more immersive and science-rich galleries, improved facilities for the animals, a state-of-the-art Science Hub, and an expansive new experiential hub and curiosity incubator there will be four acres of new and reinvigorated green space around the building.
However, the most exciting news for many will likely be the installation of a 40-foot-long glass tunnel. This will immerse visitors in the rich, bustling community of an expansive new Caribbean coral reef habitat.
Located at the heart of the fully renovated North Gallery, the new habitat and glass tunnel will offer exciting new views allowing guests to enjoy “entirely different perspectives of swimming sharks, gliding rays, and a multitude of colorful reef fishes” all of which will showcase the breathtaking biodiversity of reef ecosystems.
We will continue to reveal more on the Shedd Aquarium’s evolution as the information becomes available to us but for now, more details can be found at Sheddaquarium.org/centennial-commitment.
[All images courtesy of Shedd Aquarium]