Updated, 7:44 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – The Maritime Aquarium is struggling to meet its budget to replace the IMAX Theater, according to Norwalk Department of Public Works Principal Engineer Lisa Burns.
The Aquarium solicited bids for the construction of a new 4-D Theater, and other work at the Aquarium, and received more than 20 “trade packages,” but the project will need to be rebid, Burns told the Common Council Public Works Committee last week.
Common Council member Doug Hempstead (R-District D) said this meant the bids came in too high. Burns did not disagree.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation needs to use the space occupied by the IMAX Theater during reconstruction of the Walk Bridge. The Aquarium had been told that they would need to be out of the IMAX theater by June, but the Walk Bridge project is behind schedule so there’s time, Burns said.
The Aquarium has plans for a state-of-the-art 4-D theater and the state has agreed to cover all costs, an estimated $34.5 million, Maritime Board of Trustees Co-Chairman Michael Widland said in May.
The City has taken a more active role, Burns said last week, explaining that the City owns the property and the Aquarium is a tenant. The City wasn’t involved when the Aquarium developed its plans but has been given more responsibility, according to Burns.
There are “some high level discussions about how to move project forward,” she said.
It’s a complicated project; in connected work, the meerkats have to be moved and a new seal tank is planned. More than a year ago, the Aquarium planned to create a new entrance on North Water Street, across from Marshall Street, and “temporary tunnels to protect the public” during construction were planned.
“We need to do another constructability review to bring the (construction) schedule down,” Burns said, commenting that the entrance creates American Disabilities Act issues. “We’re looking at it again. We think we can meet the schedule by building the entrance first, and still getting the IMAX up. There’s ways.”
The Aquarium in November announced that Maureen Hanley, “a businesswoman with extensive professional and charitable involvement in Fairfield County,” had been named its new president and CEO. Hanley is getting up to speed, Burns said.
According to Burns, the plan remains to start construction this spring, as the state will pay for consultants to assist the process.