National Aquarium Closing in September

The National Aquarium facility in downtown Washington is closing.

The little-known aquarium has been around since the 1930s in the basement of the Commerce Department at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, but renovation of the building is forcing the privately run aquarium to close down Sept. 30.

Aquarium officials said they’ll find a home for about 1,500 specimens, moving some to the aquarium in Baltimore.

The National Aquarium said it hopes to find a new space in Washington, but doesn’t have one now.

The U.S. General Services Administration said it would welcome the aquarium back after renovations but that it has to temporarily relocate by March 2014.

Release from the National Aquarium:

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WASHINGTON, DC (May 9, 2013) – The Board of Directors of the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, has announced that, due to necessary renovations in the Department of Commerce building, the facility will be closing on September 30, 2013. The General Services Administration (GSA) requires National Aquarium to vacate its current space in the building by March 2014.

This September 30 closing date allows National Aquarium, Washington, DC, to meet GSA’s March deadline using a timeline that accommodates its main priority: the needs of its animals and staff. The collection of more than 1,500 animals will be transitioned to new homes at either National Aquarium, Baltimore, or at other accredited aquariums.

“Here at the National Aquarium, we value our DC venue’s rich history as the nation’s first public aquarium, and we are committed to maintaining a presence in the capital, where a public aquarium has existed since the late 1800s,” said Tamika Langley Tremaglio, National Aquarium, Washington, DC, Board Chair.

A task force of National Aquarium Board members is exploring opportunities and funding options that would support this goal. The closure will not impact the operation of National Aquarium, Baltimore, one of the nation’s leading aquariums.

Established in 1873, the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, first opened its doors to visitors in 1885 with a collection of 180 species of fish, reptiles and other aquatic animals.

Statement from the GSA: 

For the past 6 years, we have been working with the National Aquarium on finding a new home on the National Mall in the same building as their current location due to major renovations taking place at the Department of Commerce. 

Since 2006, the General Services Administration (GSA) has been working on the renovation of the U.S. Department of Commerce headquarters, which is home to the National Aquarium. This project represents the first major renovations to the Herbert C. Hoover Building since it was completed in 1932.  During this time, we have made it clear that the aquarium would eventually need to relocate temporarily due to the impact of construction on the facility’s utilities, in particular the loss of electricity. The aquarium has to temporarily relocate by March 2014.

Throughout this entire project, we have worked closely with the National Aquarium to use this as an opportunity to create a more modern facility for them within the same building that faces the National Mall.

The aquarium is a non-profit organization in a federal facility, and GSA has been working on a lease agreement with the National Aquarium since 2009.  Since they are not a government agency, the aquarium will have to provide GSA with funding for this new facility, and we have already received the initial payment for the design phase.

We are committed to continuing to work with the National Aquarium to place them in a new facility on the National Mall as soon as possible.

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