LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Los Angeles port officials on Monday unveiled plans to create a $500 million marine research center called AltaSea.

KNX’s Ed Mertz reports that the project will be built on a 100-year-old wharf on the San Pedro waterfront.

AltaSea was developed through a public-private partnership between the port and universities.

Officials cited Los Angeles’ urban environment as a reason to invest in research at the port, which had been looking to diversify its uses – in addition to cargo – for years. The facility will have direct harbor and ocean access.

“Our oceans and waterways are among our most precious natural resources,” said Annenberg Chair/CEO Wallis Annenberg, a member of the advisory panel. “We champion collaborative projects such as AltaSea and eagerly anticipate the impact this private-public partnership will have.”

AltaSea, previously dubbed “City Dock No. 1,” will take 15 to 20 years to complete, using 28 acres to house labs with circulating seawater, classrooms and support facilities.

The new research center will make LA the “premier location for addressing ocean-related environmental issues that are not only important to Southern California, but to the world,” said outgoing mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa said the partnership was expected to create jobs and lure new industries.

KNX’s Ron Kilgore spoke with Port of L.A.’s Executive Director Geraldine Knatz who said, “we want to make it a place where people can come here to study, to learn, to solve our problems.”

The center will be built in two phases. The first phase, which will cost $155 million and is anchored by the Southern California Marine Institute, is expected to be completed in 2018. Funding includes a $25 million gift from the Annenberg Foundation to kick off the development.

Officials said the AltaSea project will create 1,087 construction jobs, and the second phase will create an additional 4,161 jobs.

“Our goal is to forge deep and profound partnerships on every level and engage the entire Los Angeles community — from government agencies to university researchers, to science educators and industry leaders — in marine research that will transform the future,” said Dr. Daniel Pondella, director of the institute and chair of the biology department at Occidental College.

The development’s environmental impact report was approved by the harbor commission in October.