$45M Aquarium Replaces Mall in St. Louis’ Union Station

A massive shark tank will be part of the new one-million-gallon aquarium that will help transform the station and attract more visitors.

By Adriana Pop

St. Louis—The rebirth of Union Station in downtown St. Louis is set to include a 75,000-square-foot aquarium, which will feature one of the largest collections of sharks in the Midwest.

St. Louis Aquarium
St. Louis Aquarium is set to open in late 2018.

Bob O’Loughlin, chairman & CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) and Union Station owner, officially announced the $45 million project earlier this month. Plans also call for a v-shaped rope-and-steel bridge that will suspend visitors above the shark tank, displays of thousands of aquatic species, a gift shop, 8,500 square feet of private event space with the shark tank as a backdrop, and possibly a themed restaurant.

Construction on the St. Louis Aquarium, which will replace Union Station’s shopping mall, is set to begin this fall and be complete in about two years.

Developers hope that the new attraction will become a game-changer for the area, similar to Chicago’s Navy Pier. The project is expected to attract one million visitors per year, as well as spur other nearby developments, while also creating construction and service industry jobs.

St. Louis Aquarium will be a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The facility will employ marine biologists and aquarists to care for the creatures displayed and oversee water chemistry, animal nutrition, veterinary duties, education, staffing and safety, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Grand Hall at Union Station in St. Louis
The Grand Hall at Union Station in St. Louis

Union Station is a National Historic Landmark, which opened in 1894 and closed in 1978 when Amtrak relocated. Later in 1985, the Rouse Corp. of Baltimore redeveloped the property into a then-popular shopping destination. Success, however, faded a few years later and LHM purchased the property for $20 million in 2012. Since then, the company has invested more than $40 million in the station’s hotel, meeting rooms and vaulted Grand Hall.

Additional plans would bring a 200-foot-tall observation wheel that LHM announced in January 2015, as well as a Train Park, which will offer food and drinks served from train cars and shipping containers. The first phase of Train Park—a fire-and-light show at the station’s small lake—is set to open in November. Also, a new boardwalk around the lake will connect to the Hard Rock Café and Landry’s restaurants.

“Union Station failed as a shopping mall but can thrive as a family entertainment center,” O’Loughlin told the newspaper.

Image courtesy of Lodging Hospitality Management