NORWALK - The Maritime Aquarium celebrated its 20th anniversary Wednesday to a high compliment.

Former Norwalk Mayor Bill Collins called the aquarium the project that transformed Washington Avenue from a crime-ridden area into a place for families to visit often.

"There was nothing to do there, there was no reason to be in South Norwalk," Collins said.

But a month into his term, a call from Christopher Dupont Roosevelt led to the project's creation, and Collins said it turned the area into a booming section of Norwalk.

"All you have to do is look around you and see the economic dream is continuing," Collins said Wednesday.

The aquarium opened its doors 20 years ago, and it's since been a place for people of all ages to discover new things, including its newest exhibit, the great white alligator.

"It was a tremendous job, and the aquarium staff over the years has really done a splendid job in my opinion," Collins said.