"This is more than a move, it is an opportunity to exemplify adaptation," Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) executive director Joanna Roche told supporters of the non-profit on Friday. "The timing is perfect."
Roche's words were part of the MMA's new campaign to move its aquarium facility across the road (and farther away from the water) to 33 Washington Street. The move has been in the works for more than a decade.
Back in 2012, the MMA completed a land swap with the Nantucket Land Bank. The deal stipulated that the MMA would trade 28 Washington Street (where the aquarium is currently located) in exchange for 33 Washington Street directly across the road. The MMA's current lease for 28 Washington Street expires in November 2023.
"We have an amazing opportunity to develop this property, to build upon and extend its historical significance as a model for the future," Roche said. "We know that the sea level will rise 4 - 9 inches over the next 5-10 years. This will cause flooding on Washington Street more than 50 days per year. This project provides the MMA with an opportunity to exemplify resilience and adaptation, and our island home can be a visible example of best practices, locally and globally.
The MMA hopes the move will be far more than just a small relocation. The organization believes the move will allow its aquarium to become "a coastal resiliency leadership project, a climate change educational hub, and an important touchstone for our island."
"Our goal is to relocate the aquarium to the building across the street (33 Washington Street), which will need to be raised up and reimagined to represent Nantucket and reflect the life in its waters, the MMA stated. "Ours is not a traditional aquarium, it is a collection of life from the waters of our harbors that is caught and released. It enables us to teach thousands of children and adults to be curious about science and the nature of Nantucket. Our new building will incorporate climate change education, hands-on and experiential learning opportunities, rain gardens that will absorb the rising waters, rotating exhibits, public spaces, scallop research, and it will preserve the existing historic buildings on our property."