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Published: Monday, 1/18/2010

Another developer pitches Cleveland aquarium plan


CLEVELAND - Add another player to the already-crowded field of developers dreaming of bringing a world-class aquarium to Cleveland.

The latest entry, Great Lakes Aquarium of Cleveland Inc., wants to build a $70 million aquarium as part of a lakefront development project planned for land occupied by the Port of Cleveland north of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Two other developers have pitched aquarium proposals over the last year, and no fewer than six have been floated through the North Coast over the last 20 years.

"That should be an indication that there's a lot of interest around here to build an aquarium in Cleveland," said Berea businessman Russ Hill, president of the nonprofit Great Lakes Aquarium group.

In September, developer Jeff Jacobs received a $2 million loan from Cleveland to build a $9 million Nautica Aquarium inside his Powerhouse building on the Flats' west bank. Construction is set to start in the spring and be completed by the year-end.

A competing nonprofit group, Cleveland Aquarium Inc., has pitched a $50 million aquarium - one twice as big as Mr. Jacobs' tank - for the Flats' east bank.

Earlier proposals included the Great Waters Aquarium touted for years by former Mayor Michael R. White, an aquarium envisioned for the Coast Guard land east of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and another for the Harborside Village planned on the lakefront east of the Cuyahoga River.

Mr. Hill said his plans are for an aquarium more in league with those in Baltimore, Boston, and Newport, Ky.

Mr. Hill's partner in the project is architect Bruce Grulke, a Cleveland native living in Norfolk who has experience with aquarium projects and is a specialist in green design.

Mr. Jacobs did not return calls seeking comment.

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