Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A planned 35-acre research campus at the Port of Los Angeles received a $500,000 infusion from a local charity, it was announced Friday.

The Crail-Johnson Foundation, which gives money to programs serving children in the San Pedro area, donated the funds to help build the AltaSea science research complex.

It’s the largest single amount ever given by the group, according to foundation trustee Eric Johnson, who said the project will benefit San Pedro by putting “obsolete industrial port facilities” to good use.

AltaSea is envisioned as “a cutting-edge urban ocean laboratory, redefining the interface between marine research, technology, industry and K-12 education,” he said.

At least $82 million for the project has been raised through contributions from the Port of Los Angeles and The Annenberg Foundation. Another $53.2 million is needed by January 2017 in order to begin construction on the first phase, which is to include sea-water laboratories, offices, a lecture hall and an interpretative center.

AltaSea executives hope to raise a total of $217 million by 2019. The full project cost is estimated at more than $500 million over a 15- to 20-year construction period, city officials said in 2013.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Inc. signed a 50-year lease with the Port of Los Angeles to oversee the development of AltaSea at Dock No. 1, a former site of warehouses and wharf space that has fallen into disrepair.

AltaSea will house government and university laboratories, including the Southern California Marine Institute; berths for research ships; classrooms and interpretive centers; and potentially a seawater wave tank to study rogue waves and tsunamis. A portion of the campus will be leased out for entrepreneurial marine and water-related ventures.

AltaSea CEO Rachel Etherington said the nonprofit is “humbled by” and “supremely grateful” for Crail-Johnson’s donation.

“It further demonstrates AltaSea’s significance to the harbor area, and gets us closer to reaching our fundraising goal for Phase 1 development,” she said, adding that AltaSea “will not rest until we have met (it).”

City officials estimated in 2013 that the project will result in about 1,350 professional jobs and 6,500 construction jobs.

AltaSea’s advisory cabinet includes Los Angeles Times publisher and businessman Austin Beutner. Philanthropist Wallis Annenberg is one of the founding trustees.

—City News Service

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