The DeMaria/Wharton-Smith team, and Detroit Zoological Society board members, donors, staff and guests gathered at the Detroit Zoo on June 17th to ceremoniously “break the ice” on the Polk Penguin Conservation Center (PPCC).

The DeMaria/Wharton-Smith team brings more than a decade of experience to the Detroit Zoo, in addition to their experience building underwater exhibits and aquatic life support systems across the country. The groundbreaking event marked the beginning of an 18-month development period for the largest project the Zoo has ever undertaken.

One of the most dramatic features of the $29.5-million, 33,000-square-foot facility will be a penguin “deep dive” with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar through a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area.  That feature, deeper and larger than the aquatic area at the Zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life, will allow visitors to observe penguins as they deep-water dive – something that is almost impossible to see, even in the wild.


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