DC Aquarium — Dead in the Water?

DC Aquarium -- Dead in the Water?

Washington’s secret museum near the Mall, the National Aquarium, may be evicted by the General Services Administration (GSA).

Established by the federal government in 1873, the aquarium was “privatized” during the Reagan administration but coasted by, rent-free, in the basement of the Commerce Building (14th & Constitution Avenue, NW). GSA just noticed something fishy: the aquarium is no longer federal, and private entities in government space are required to pay rent.

Things have not been going swimmingly, even without threat of eviction. The century-old facility needed a retrofit, and it is over-shadowed by the big fish, the Baltimore branch of the aquarium. The few people who know DC has an aquarium may be put-off by the $5.00 entrance fee ($2.50 for kids), a tourist turn-off when the Smithsonian freebies are a block away. The current state of the aquarium web site doesn’t help, either.

Given its history, the answer may be granting the National Aquarium “quasi-governmental” status like the Smithsonian so it can use government facilities rent-free, but that might open a can of worms and drive schools of other organizations into a feeding frenzy, roiling the water and clamoring for “quasi-governmental” status too.

A whale of an artistic conception by Mike Licht, who forgot the treasure chest and neon tetras.

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