When plans for the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration were made public this week, the dramatic ribbed roof reminded some observers of a sea creature. But the design is no more dramatic than the dream behind this project -- or its importance for Baltimore.
In part because of the pioneering efforts of the University of Maryland's Rita Colwell, the United States enjoys a lead in marine biotechnology, a field with enormous economic development potential. Dr. Colwell heads the Maryland Biotechnology Institute, which includes the Center of Marine Biology (COMB). It will become a central feature of the Columbus Center when it opens in 1994. The center will also have a marine archaeology facility and exhibition spaces for students and tourists.
A project that once seemed little more than a fanciful pipe dream is nearing reality. Today, a budget committee in Annapolis begins consideration of a request for $17 million, the biggest chunk of the state's contribution to the $161 million project. Congress has chipped in $31.5 million, with more to come, and the state has already spent $1.68 million for design work. The city is making substantial contributions, most notably the valuable site on which the center will be built. Clearly, there is every reason for the General Assembly to approve the center's request.