2017-08-10 / Business

City Hall awaiting application from aquarium developers

‘This is happening,’ company rep says
By Kyle Jorrey

AQUATIC UNDERTAKING—A Louisiana-based company is looking to open a 20,000-square-foot aquarium at Janss Marketplace. It would be the county’s first. Above is a look at construction on Planet Aqua Group’s soon-to-open aquarium in Shreveport, La. Courtesy of Planet Aqua Group AQUATIC UNDERTAKING—A Louisiana-based company is looking to open a 20,000-square-foot aquarium at Janss Marketplace. It would be the county’s first. Above is a look at construction on Planet Aqua Group’s soon-to-open aquarium in Shreveport, La. Courtesy of Planet Aqua Group Planet Aqua Group, the Shreveport, La.-based firm that intends to open an aquarium at Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks, says it’s moving full steam ahead.

“This is happening,” Jake Wood, external affairs director, told the Acorn during a recent interview. “And it’s going to be a very transparent process. We don’t just roll into town and blow open the doors.”

Wood spent several days in July touring the region and meeting with local officials to discuss plans to bring a 20,000-squarefoot interactive aquarium to the T.O. retail center in 2018. He said Planet Aqua, which is in lease negotiations with mall owner NewMark Merrill, expects the aquarium to become a fixture in the community.

“We’re not going to be out-of-towners. . . . We really want this to be for the Ventura County area, by the Ventura County area,” he said.

To that end, Wood said, the company intends to use local labor to build the aquarium, which will feature floor-to-ceiling tanks containing a cross section of aquatic life brought in from as close as the Conejo Valley creek watershed and as far away as the Great Barrier Reef.

“It’s not going to be like a living art gallery. It will be highly interactive,” Wood said of the aquarium, which will contain several touch tanks where visitors can get up close and personal with underwater creatures like manta rays and starfish.

Wood estimates the cost of a ticket will range from $12 to $15, with special rates for groups and school tours.

If approved, the Thousand Oaks aquarium would employ 50 to 60 people, most of them local hires, the Planet Aqua rep said.

Permitting process

Although they’ve yet to submit an application to the City of Thousand Oaks, Planet Aqua Group has been assigned a city planner who will work with them, Wood said.

The company has touted an early 2018 start to construction, but Haider Alawami, Thousand Oaks economic development officer, said that would be difficult to envision if Planet Aqua doesn’t submit its official paperwork soon.

“They might have to delay the construction date,” Alawami said in an email, suggesting the company was still looking for sponsors and investors.

Sandy Sigal, CEO of NewMark Merrill, said Planet Aqua was still in the fundraising phase but making good progress.

“There’s no point in us finalizing anything until they’re ready,” Sigal said regarding the lease for the space next to Gold’s Gym.

Responding to an email this week about the status of the project, Wood said Planet Aqua was confident the application and permitting process would be completed with “plenty of time” to break ground at Janss in the first part of 2018.

“We’re not currently soliciting investors, but we’re happy to entertain sponsorships for the attraction,” he said in the email.

As the firm works to secure funding in Thousand Oaks, Planet Aqua is preparing to open its first aquarium on the riverfront in Shreveport, a city better known for gambling-friendly riverboats than family entertainment.

The Shreveport Aquarium has an opening date of Aug. 31.

Changes at Janss

The aquarium is just one of the major changes coming to Thousand Oaks’ oldest shopping mall. DojoBoom, an indoor extreme sports park, is under construction, with plans to open in November.

The mall is also welcoming several new tenants in the coming months, including Ulta, a beauty products retailer, and Petco, both of which are under construction.

“We’re doing really good,” Sigal said. “There’s a lot coming up.”

Although there is no set date for the aquarium to open, Sigal said, once the company secures all the necessary funding, the grand opening won’t be far behind.

“It’ll open as quick as they can make it happen,” he said.

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