Harrison Chase Greenberg loved the ocean and adventure.
The Manhattan Beach native and son to Skechers CEO Michael Greenberg was inquisitive by nature, according to his mother Wendy.
He was known by those around him for his wisdom, compassion and independence.
In a tragedy that shook the community, Harrison unexpectedly passed away in 2015 while on a trip to Thailand.
But, his memory lives on in a special building that will shape the South Bay for generations to come: the newly renovated Roundhouse Aquarium.
“This is perfect because he can give that back to so many people,” Wendy said of her son’s love of knowledge, gesturing towards the beautiful, white octagonal building which was remodeled in his memory.
Refreshing a community gem
The refurbished iconic aquarium at the foot of the Manhattan Beach pier made its official debut during an emotional opening ceremony Nov. 5.
The fresh design features 14 oceanic tanks, two fresh water tanks, a wrap-around touch tank and 75 species of marine life.
Exhibits include a sea jellies tank, shark tank and additional marine life such as moray eels, seahorses and an octopus.
The new Roundhouse also features an unhindered view of the horizon.
“For the first time in 100 years, you can look down the pier west and see the largest aquarium in the world - the Pacific Ocean,” Michael Greenberg said of the new building at its opening ceremony.
The $4 million revitalization of the Roundhouse, built in 1920, will offer a state-of-the-art oceanic learning experience free of charge as it has since it began being used that way by Oceanographic Teaching Stations in 1981.
“With its deteriorated tanks and facilities, the interior of the aquarium was in serious disrepair,” Greenberg said in a press release. “Harrison would be proud to have played a part in reviving the place where he had so many wonderful memories.”
Greenberg said the project was the result of the hard work of many and expressed gratitude to several contributors.
“I met a lot of people along this journey and added a lot to my family,” he said.
Partnership to success
The Roundhouse beautification project represents one of the largest public-private partnerships in Manhattan Beach history, according to Greenberg. It's a collaboration between the city, OTS and the Harrison Greenberg Foundation.
The renovations took nearly a year to complete and included $2 million in infrastructure upgrades on behalf of Manhattan Beach municipality, such as replacing water, sewer and fire suppression lines.
“It was a big job to do in a very short time,” said Manhattan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano at the opening ceremony. “And it turned out fantastic.”
The reimagined aquarium will continue to serve as an Oceanographic Teaching Station educational facility, drawing in more than 14,000 students per year from across Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
“The new design will allow us to be more experiential, more interactive,” said OTS Board President John Roberts in a press release. “This project hasn’t just revived the Roundhouse, it revives our relationship with the entire Los Angeles and Orange County communities.”
Future donations to the Harrison Greenberg Foundation, which successfully raised more than $4 million towards the project, will be applied to continue the Roundhouse Aquarium's educational programs, camps and staffing, according to a statement released by the Foundation.
"The Roundhouse is an iconic gem of our community and it's imperative that we continue to protect this aquarium from the elements so that it can share its teachings with our children and our children's children," Greenberg said in the statement.
'The greatest little aquarium in the world'
Napolitano also noted the new Roundhouse would have an impact on the community for generations to come.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that (Harrison) will live on in the enchantment and awe on the faces of the millions of children who will pass through these doors,” he said at the opening.
Designer Peter Sollogub, associate principal of CambridgeSeven who spearheaded the project, said in spite of its size, the roughly 2,000 square foot building had the ‘biggest heart’ he had ever worked with.
“Square feet, creatures, dollars...those are measured in metrics,” said Sollogub, who has designed world-renowned facilities such as the New England Aquarium. “Those can’t measure heart. Heart drives soul and drives spirit.”
The spirit of the South Bay and of Harrison Greenberg remain immortalized in what Napolitano called "‘the greatest little aquarium in the world."