The facade of Branson’s former Grand Palace was torn down Tuesday as work continues toward the construction of an aquarium.
The razing of the lobby portion of the palace was part of an update on the project, which now has a name: Branson Boardwalk.
Partner Tej Sundher, of Kuvera Partners, parent company of developer Branson LLC., said construction of a $51 million, 46,000-square-foot Aquarium at the Boardwalk is on pace for opening in summer 2020 and should fuel future additions to the 13-acre Branson Boardwalk. General Contractor Crossland Construction and Owner Representative Blevins Construction Management are keeping the project on track to meet the timeline.
Kuvera Partners also owns and operates several other attractions in Branson, including Hollywood Wax Museum, Castle of Chaos, Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors and Shoot for the Stars Mini Golf.
Branson aldermen approved the development for a funding measure known as tax increment financing. The financing system, commonly referred to as TIF, has been used previously by Branson to help developers fund projects in undeveloped or underdeveloped areas such as Branson Hills, Branson Landing and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows. Inside a TIF district, the developer can use a portion of taxes collected within the district to help pay for certain portions of the project.
Sundher announced the property, formerly known as Grand Palace, is now under the development name of Branson Boardwalk. Kuvera Partners purchased the property in 2014. The Grand Palace closed in 2008.
As part of meeting TIF requirements for alleviating blight, Sundher said the plantation-style mansion building on the property needed to be removed. Sundher said studies showed the presence of black mold and water damage in the interior of the wooden mansion.
“We’ll be able to strip out everything from the concrete structure – the part that was the theatre itself – to allow for future use,” Sundher said. “But, our environmental studies showed that the wooden elements, including the plantation-style facade that contained the lobby and staircases, are too permeated with toxins to be restored.”
According to a press release from Kuvera Partners, while the mansion had to be removed, several key historical items, including multiple Christmas trees, giant toy soldiers that were part of performances by The Rockettes, a piano signed by stars who performed at the theatre, four seats from the “Golden Circle” VIP area and the iconic chandelier that hung in the lobby, were recovered and are being refurbished and will be donated to the community.
“Any amount of melancholy we feel for the Grand Palace as it was in its heyday is replaced by excitement and confidence that the new Branson Boardwalk and Aquarium at the Boardwalk will rejuvenate our entertainment corridor and bring new visitors,” Ann McDowell, executive director of Project Branson, said via press release.
With construction underway since March, Sundher said one of the main focuses right now is the foundation for the life support system which will ensure the fish have a healthy environment.
“The walls are going up, the pipes are being laid for the life support system, and we’ll soon be putting water through them for testing,” he said. “We’re also excited that the support columns at the front of the building are ready. That’s where our iconic octopus sculpture will attach.”