- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2016

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Shreveport’s city council has voted to move forward with bringing a public aquarium to Northwest Louisiana.

The council Tuesday voted for a plan that allows the city to lease the empty Barnwell Garden & Art Center to the Planet Aqua Group.

The Times reports (https://bit.ly/2e6Udtk) the city will bring the historic building up to code using a $1.5 million bond issued in 2011. Once complete, Planet Aqua will invest $2.8 million to improve the Barnwell and move its company headquarters to Shreveport.

The city will bring the Barnwell building up to code using a $1.5 million bond issued by voters in 2011. Once complete, Planet Aqua will invest $2.8 million to improve the Barnwell and move its company headquarters to Shreveport.

The Shreveport Aquarium will be the group’s first venture.

Based on a projected $2.3 million in sales revenue, the building will generate about $105,000 in tax revenue and create about 45 jobs -10 full-time and 35 part-time.

“It will go from being a loss for the city to own to a revenue stream,” Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program financial analyst Julie Gilley said.

The Barnwell Center hasn’t been used since 2012. Opened in 1970, the center served as a botanical conservatory as well as a space for art exhibitions. According to the EAP, the city spent $300,000 annually while the Barnwell was in operation, $80,000 annually in supplements when it was privately run and $30,000 annually when it was vacant.

Jon Whitehead, director of business development for Planet Aqua, said the company began scouting places to open an aquarium in 2014. Whitehead said the group surveyed about 15 other cities before deciding on Shreveport.

“There’s a giant hole in the region (for aquariums), so it really worked out,” he said.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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