Discussions about proposed aquarium in Branson continue

Discussions about a project in Branson that would turn the former Grand Palace Theater property into an aquarium continued Tuesday night.

During a special Board of Aldermen meeting, the public came to hear more about the proposal and also to voice their opposition, support, or ask questions.

The developers of the Aquarium at the Boardwalk say they need about $7 million in Tax Increment Financing, or TIF. It's a special kind of funding that basically takes tax generated on the attraction to pay for the project. 

The TIF Comission has already recommended the TIF request for approval, but the Board of Aldermen will have the final say. 

The developers, who also own several other Branson attractions including the Hollywood Wax Museum, are asking the public to pay for less than 14 percent of only phase one of the project.

However, there is some controversy about whether or not this is the best plan for this property. 

‪Audrey Richards says one of the reasons she is opposed to the project is because she believes the design is too elaborate and continues to change the atmosphere of the tourist town.‬

“You reach the site of the proposed giant octopus and then, wait, you round out the tour ten seconds later with a giant chicken. I just have to wonder at what point the theater district becomes the circus district,” Richards said.

However, other people have been outspoken about their support of the project. As a commercial property broker, Robert Huels says it is a good investment into the future of the property that’s sat dormant for so long.

“This is the closest we’ve ever gotten to an aquarium and I don’t believe there’s any change we will get another shot at it if we don't take this one,”’Huels said.

The Board of Aldermen is expected to consider the first reading of the TIF request during their regular board meeting ‪next Tuesday‬.