Draper • The Living Planet Aquarium got zoning approval, and financial help from the city Tuesday.
The City Council unanimously voted to create a commercial special district for the aquarium and professional buildings that will surround it. The council also voted to sell sales tax revenue bonds to cover the $11 million it is providing for the 180,000-square-foot building.
"This is a real watershed event for us to mature from a town into a city," Councilman Bill Rappleye said.
Lyle Beecher, the architect retained by the aquarium, said the zone and its accompanying standards will ensure that the project will be a quality development.
"This is not going to be something that turns into an amusement park," Beecher said. "We want this to be a professional environment that families will come to."
The new zone allows for the aquarium, along with movie theaters, live theaters, reception centers, banks, hotels and similar businesses. The buildings would also have to harmonize in their architecture.
The centerpiece of the development at 12047 S. Lone Peak Parkway would be the aquarium, which would stand no more than 100 feet tall. Preliminary drawings show the building with a stepped glass front on its south side, with a large fin structure.
Steve Price, of Price Realty Group, said the aquarium plan, coupled with other businesses that have located in the area show that Draper, along with the rest of the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, are rebounding. "Six months ago, the market was frozen," Price said. "Now, we're seeing businesses coming in."
Representatives of Edwards Lifesciences, which is next to the site, are looking forward to the new neighbor.
Todd Vernon, Edwards' finance director, said having hotels, restaurants and the aquarium nearby would create a good image for the area. The only concern he had was traffic congestion in the area.
Beecher, the architect, said the aquarium traffic would be spread out throughout the day, avoiding rush-hour surges.
City officials said they would also look into traffic issues.
The aquarium is expecting to move into Draper in April 2013, leaving behind a 43,000-square-foot building in Sandy.
The council authorized the sale of $15 million in sales tax revenue bonds, to pay off older bonds and provide the $11 million needed for the aquarium project. The city will hold the title to the aquarium and its exhibits as security until the aquarium pays off the bond.
If the aquarium were to default, the city would take possession of the aquarium.