Three local firms tabbed for new ExplorOcean

The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum / ExplorOcean on Friday announced the names of the architectural, creative design and construction management firms that will work on its future waterfront site.

The ongoing expansion plans aim to create ExplorOcean as a Southern California destination for marine and earth sciences education, with groundbreaking set for 2015 and completion of the project by 2017.

Over the next six months, LPA Inc., an Irvine-based architectural firm, will start coming up with concepts for the new facility, museum officials said in a news release. LPA will also unveil an on-site project preview center, set to open in the late fall, coinciding with the museum's 25th anniversary.

The museum selected LPA for its "reputation for designing museums, institutions, and environmental centers with cutting-edge, green methods that maximize funding opportunities and deliver beautiful functional projects on time and within budget," according to the release.

The museum has also hired the Pasadena-based Hettema Group for the project's creative design abilities. According to their website, Hettema Group is known for their creative design of theme parks, including the recently announced Hello Kitty theme park in Anji, China. Hettema will focus on providing an immersive experience at the new nautical museum.

"We're enthusiastic about the opportunity to tell the ExplorOcean story in an exciting new way, creating an immersive, enlightening experience for audiences of all ages," Phil Hettema, president and creative executive of The Hettema Group, said in a prepared statement.

A Newport Beach firm, Questar Construction, will manage the overall project, the news release said.

"This project represents an opportunity to revive the entire historic Balboa Peninsula Village area and will also provide the local community with a village center it can be proud of," Jim Salomon, principal of Questar Construction, said in a prepared statement.

"We feel extremely confident this highly talented team will guide the development of ExplorOcean through our next exciting steps in becoming a world class cultural destination," said Rita Stenlund, Newport Harbor Nautical Museum / ExplorOcean President in a prepared statement.

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