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Roundhouse anniversary

a private public partnership

by Mark Burton

The Roundhouse Aquarium will celebrate its 40th Anniversary this month, starting with an open house in conjunction with the annual holiday Pier Lighting Ceremony on Wednesday, November 20. 

Although Manhattan Beach is a full-service city, local government can’t do it all.  The aquarium is an example of residents taking the initiative for the benefit of fellow residents by forming non-profit organizations that partner with the City. 

That’s what happened 40 years ago when a Grand View Elementary School teacher and a group of residents created the Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of Manhattan’s iconic pier by incorporating the Oceanographic Teaching Stations. And, that’s what happened again last November when Michael Greenberg and his Harrison Greenberg Foundation completed the “Roundhouse Aquarium Beautification Project.”

The project was a partnership between the City, the Foundation and the long-time operator of the Roundhouse Aquarium, the Oceanographic Teaching Stations. The two resident-founded non-profits worked with the City over several years, resulting in one of the best children’s aquariums in the world.  

Because the State of California owns the pier, approval was required from the State Parks and Recreation Department. Because it’s in the coastal zone, Coastal Commission approval was required.  And City Council approval was required. 

That’s a gauntlet of approvals.

Yet, the three parties to the agreement worked tirelessly to complete the project on time. Obviously, Manhattan Beach resident Greenberg was the driving force. The Harrison Greenberg Foundation raised over $4 million dollars to make the Roundhouse Aquarium a world-class aquarium.  The City spent over $1 million dollars in pier infrastructure improvements.

The Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair, the Manhattan Beach 10K, the Manhattan Beach Historical Society and the annual Manhattan Beach fireworks show are other examples of resident-founded nonprofits partnering with the City for everyone’s benefit.

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