Those behind a proposed Seafood Education Center - or "Fish Factory," as some refer to it - may get a financial boost from the Astoria Development Commission, the city's urban renewal agency.
"We're trying to rev it up, that's for sure," said Jay Bornstein, Bornstein Seafoods president. He will be among those making formal presentations on the project at the August commission meeting, in hopes of securing roughly $1 million toward constructing a building to house the center. It will be located adjacent to the new, state-of-the-art Bornstein Seafood plant at the Port of Astoria's Pier 2.
"My goal is still to have something in place by 2007."
The Fish Factory will feature views of seafood processing in action - including crab butchering, cooking and "shaking," bottom fish filleting, salmon cleaning, sardine packing and shrimp cooking -and offer a crash course in the area's seafaring past.
"As envisioned, the Seafood Education Center will engage visitors in an interactive educational experience that guides them through the history, seafood source and 'real time' world of seafood harvesters and processors," said Diane Moody, director of Astoria's Seafood Consumer Center, the non-profit organization partnering with Bornstein and the Port of Astoria on the project.
"This is an outcropping of Peter Gearin's 'seafood cluster,'" said Bornstein.
Gearin, executive director of the Port of Astoria, is always on the lookout for ways to fulfill a goal in the port's 2000 Strategic Plan - to support the area's natural resource industry, and to encourage fishing industry consolidation to the Astoria area.
"In economic development terms, when complementary businesses are located near each other, it is referred to as a 'cluster,' said Gearin. With the new Bornstein Seafood plant, and plans for the Fish Factory and retail center, our seafood cluster is taking shape."
Bornstein expects to pony up an additional $1 million to build a second structure at the site. His plans for a retail seafood center include a pavilion, where visitors "can mill around, eat, participate in cooking classes," he said.
So far, reaction to the proposal has been supportive, said Bornstein.
"Everybody is just absolutely positive. I have not heard a negative thing yet."
One question he has fielded regards how the interpretive center - the public portion of the project - will sustain itself financially. According to Bornstein, retail center revenues would subsidize its operation over the long-term. Citing a feasibility study completed on the project, he projects that in its seventh year, the Seafood Education Center "will draw about 700,000 per year."
An increase of tourists to the area on that level will necessitate rethinking Astoria's traffic flow, noted Bornstein.
"That's one of the other aspects that we're talking about. Everybody needs to work together on all of these things, because if we have expectations of drawing that many people, traffic and parking could be a problem. Or, we could be part of the solution."
In the meantime, Bornstein continues to work with Gearin, Moody and others to iron out the details of how the Fish Factory will be owned and operated.
"There are a few pieces that still need to be put together," said Bornstein.
Still, Bornstein believes urban renewal funds are a perfect fit for the project.
"I think our chances are good," he said.