SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Despite the attention Onondaga County’s $85 million Aquarium project got when it was debated, work to build it has begun without much fanfare.

Land preparation started this week so that the foundation can be laid next spring.

Soil needs to settle for six months before laying the foundation next spring.

Archie Wixon, the commissioner for the Onondaga County Department of Facilities Management, has managed a lot of projects for Onondaga County. This is his first aquarium.

“We have an aquarium designer that is one of our prime consultants that is renowned all over the world, dozens of aquariums they’ve been involved in. We have an acrylics specialist, a species specialist, a theming specialist. We’re not going about this haphazardly,” Wixon said.

“It’s going to be a lot taller than you’d expect. Tanks are going to have depths of water that exceed 30 feet,” Wixon said.

That delicate work on the aquatic exhibits inside won’t be done until 2025, but you’ll see the outside building go up fast next year.

“We’re introducing a theme to the shape. Colors are associated with the theme. It’s going to be of architectural significance. It’s not going to be a box,” Wixon said.

Since the Inner Harbor is mostly vacant land, the construction site finally gives perspective as to exactly where the aquarium will go. Just to the north is Bear Street and Destiny USA. To the west is the harbor and Iron Pier Apartments. To the south is downtown Syracuse and the Aloft Hotel.

“You’re going to have your friends and family come visit you. This is where you’re going to take them. A couple years down the road, you’ll see a restaurant here, a boutique here,” Wixon said.

The commissioner knows critics call the project fishy. He thinks it takes Onondaga County to new depths.