McCarthy Building Companies has completed construction of the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, a 120,000-square-foot, two-story attraction built inside the footprint of a nearly 500,000-square-foot 19th century iron umbrella train shed designated a National Historic Landmark. The grand-opening was Christmas Day 2019.
Featuring one-of-a-kind exhibits and aquatic environments for thousands of aquatic animals from the rivers and oceans of the world housed in 1.3 million gallons of water, the aquarium is the centerpiece of a $160 million family entertainment complex developed for Union Station by Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM).
When construction began in November 2017, the project faced a unique set of challenges. Demolition depended on working from “as-built” drawings from the late 1800s, which made existing condition coordination, work sequencing and planning essential. Not only was it necessary to protect and preserve the original columns, footings, foundation, underground piping and more, but historic construction restraints also provided limited access to certain areas, sometimes allowing less than two-feet of space.
During construction, 1,552 square feet of permanent acrylic panels weighing 53,000 pounds and ranging in size from 3-feet by 3-feet to as large as 16-feet by 18-feet were installed, with the largest acrylic panel weighing nearly 14,000-pounds for the 250,000-gallon shark exhibit. Due to its size and weight, it needed to be placed inside the footprint of the exhibit prior to the concrete structure being completed. In addition, nearly 3 miles (15,800 feet) of pipe was installed to service multiple complex life support systems, each representing a different ecosystem—from riverside to oceanside and freshwater to saltwater, as well as back-of- house areas with separate holding and quarantine exhibits.