Blue Abyss may build $250m research center here

A conceptual rendering of Blue Abyss’ planned deep sea and space research, training and test facility in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Reportedly, their research center next to NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland will be very similar in purpose and design (Blue Abyss). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Center may mirror scope of UK project

A British company, Blue Abyss Diving Ltd., is pursuing the development of a new research center devoted to deep sea and space research in the Cleveland suburb of Brook Park on land next to NASA Glenn Research Center. The project, with a total estimated price tag of $250 million, could be one of the most significant business investments resulting from the presence of the NASA facility. It could also be nearly identical to a major research center Blue Abyss is building in the United Kingdom county of Cornwall.

As with the planned research center at the Cornwall Aerohub Enterprise Zone near Newquay in southwest England, the American counterpart will be at an airport commerce center — the Aerozone Alliance TechPark next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. According to a source familiar with the project but who spoke off the record, Blue Abyss wiil be acquiring a 12-acre piece of a 17.8-acre site the city put on the market along Aerospace Parkway.

That site includes 14.5 acres of land owned by the city of Brook Park and 3.3 acres owned by FirstEnergy. The entire 17.8-acre offering had a total asking price of $930,000. The city is reserving a roughly 5-acre portion of that 17.8-acre site for an adjacent, undisclosed development. The sale of and transaction amount for the city-owned land is conditional upon City Council approval, the source noted.

Unlike deep-dive facilities built for adventurers in places like Warsaw, Poland and Dubai, United Arab Emrites, Blue Abyss’ projects will be larger and likely not open to the public. They are intended to provide research, testing and training of people, equipment and techniques in deep water atmospheres and low-gravity environments in a controlled, highly monitored setting. To accomplish that, both the Cornwall and Cleveland-area facilities will include 164-foot-deep diving pools, microgravity suites, astronaut training centers and private lodging. Unlike the $183 million Cornwall research center, the American counterpart carries a higher construction cost of $235 million. The source said its $250 million overall cost includes all site analysis, property acquisition, legal and other expenses.

Site analysis included drilling core samples to learn about the geology and hydrogeology deep below ground. Blue Abyss founder and CEO John Vickers said the same thing had to be done at Cornwall to understand its site before acquiring it and constructing a large underground structure that includes a significant excavation and a deep shaft.

Blue Abyss has an agreement with the city of Brook Park to acquire 12 acres of the 17.8-acre site, at lower left, on Aerospace Parkway for its proposed deep sea and space research center (CRESCO).

Blue Abyss reportedly has a short list of major construction firms it is comfortable with in handling such a complex engineering project that extends deep into the ground. For the Cleveland-area project, the source said Blue Abyss is soliciting bids from only three potential construction managers — M. A. Mortenson Company, Turner Construction Co. and Gilbane Building Co.

This outreach came after a site selection effort that started a year ago and was aided by two London, England-based people — David Townsend of Value Partners Group and Howard Goulden of Howard Kennedy LLP. Both were advocates of locating a research facility in Ohio due to its industrial and aerospace heritage.

“Following an introduction by Blue Abyss collaborator David Townsend late last year, to long-time supporter of international business in Ohio, Howard Goulden, the idea of Ohio as a possible US location for a Blue Abyss facility became increasingly compelling,” Vickers wrote in a recent blog. “Much like Cornwall, Ohio has a rich industrial heritage and is looking to create a technology-enabled niche for itself in the future, at the heart of the global space economy.”

Vickers also met with representatives of the Ohio Aerospace Institute, namely CEO John Sankovic and Kim Holizna, director of global development and member programs in America and in the UK. Those meetings led to Vickers and others at Blue Abyss coming to Ohio last September to tour the state for 11 days to look for sites in Cleveland, Columbus and other cities, Vicker said. By November, the team had zeroed in on the Brook Park site and began to secure contracts and investment in the site.

“With strong support from the state of Ohio, the city mayor’s office, academic and industrial partners, the proposal has considerable traction with a potential site identified, investment in discussion and partnerships formed,” Vickers added.


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