by Connie Oswald Stofko
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens expects to start construction in fall 2020 on an exciting expansion project that includes:
- Butterfly conservatory
- State‐of‐the‐art classrooms
- New grow houses
- Expanded exhibit and event spaces
- New, more convenient visitor entrance
- Larger gift shop
Completion is expected in the fall of 2022.
It’s going to be cool!
If you enjoy the Botanical Gardens now, you’ll love the new changes.
The butterfly conservatory, where you can walk in a space among butterflies, will be indoors and open year-round.
“Obviously, any classrooms built new will be significantly better than classrooms in a garage,” said David Swarts, Botanical Gardens/CEO, referring to the space where classes such as the popular Horticulture series are currently held.
The new classrooms will be state of the art and include prep tables, sinks, proper chairs for young children and the ability to use white boards and other electronic media.
Instead of staying behind the scenes, the grow houses will be part of the visitor experience. Visitors will have the opportunity to see staff and volunteers working with the plants.
The increased space will provide more room not only for exhibits, but for events.
Currently, space is limited for events — there is room for only 100 people for a sit-down dinner for weddings and other events. And because it’s not climate-controlled, the conservatory gets too hot to use for events during the summer, Swarts explained.
The expansion will allow the Botanical Gardens to hold sit-down dinners for 350-400 people. And because there will be air conditioning, events can be held during the summer, too.
Being able to hold events throughout the year means the Botanical Gardens can hold more events. That, coupled with being able to hold larger events, will help the financial sustainability of the Botanical Gardens, Swarts said.
There won’t be such a long distance to walk from your car to the entrance when the expansion is complete. The visitor entrance will be moved and will be adjacent to a parking lot. You’ll be able to drop off passengers at the entrance, too. Visitors should find this much more convenient.
It’s going to be big!
There won’t be any changes to the original historic Lord & Burnham structure, whose beautiful glass-domed buildings are the signature hallmarks of the Botanical Gardens.
The current buildings at the Botanical Gardens encompass 66,000 square feet, and the expansion project will add 40,000 square feet. (The old garage and several old greenhouses, which comprise 22,000 square feet, will be demolished. Those buildings are deteriorating and block the view of South Park.)
This year, the Botanical Gardens is on track to welcome 141,000 visitors. When completed, the Botanical Gardens’ expansion will attract more than 220,000 visitors annually, and that’s a very conservative estimate, Swarts said.
“The economic impact will be significant,” Swarts said.
The project is estimated to cost $18 million. The Botanical Gardens is currently discussing the expansion with public and private funders and will share more detailed information as the project develops.
Informational meetings have been conducted with local community organizations, partners, government entities and community leaders to ensure that the plan addresses the needs of the community.
“Our mission is to develop a better understanding of the role plants play in sustaining life on our planet,” Swarts said. “The expansion project will make a botanical and environmental impact.
“We’re really excited to move forward on this project.”