The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, Inc. has adopted a master plan that will pave the road to 40,000 square foot expansion project. A community engagement process is now underway, which will ultimately measure the support for the proposed expansion, as it relates to the needs of the community. The Botanical Gardens is working with community organizations, partners, government entities, and community leaders to outline the proposal via informational meetings. This undertaking, which began 5 years ago, is the result of the Botanical Gardens’ Board of Directors determination that a refreshed master plan was needed. Since that time, The Botanical Gardens developed (and is implementing) a comprehensive strategic plan that is enhancing the scope around programs and events, all of which complement the historic Lord & Burnham structure.
“The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens are a unique and irreplaceable asset in Erie County, with world class collections that draw visitors from all over the world. Now well over a century old and seeing increased visitation every year, this historic institution is strong and is planning the next steps that will ensure its educational and conservational role far into the future,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “I look forward to working with Botanical Gardens’ President/CEO, David Swarts and his team as this plan moves forward.”
As part of the discovery and planning process, Swarts himself has been busy meeting with a multitude of groups, including Botanical Gardens’ Volunteers and Members, the McKinley Parkway Homeowners Association, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Lackawanna and Buffalo and Erie County Public Library public forums, the Rotary Club of Buffalo, Visit Buffalo Niagara, the Good Government Club of Western New York, Niagara Business Associates, and the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society.
In 2019, the Botanical Gardens contracted with local firms to conduct environmental impact, geotechnical, geothermal, land survey assessment and traffic studies.
The County of Erie, through a Public Private Partnership agreement, is now fully engaged in the process via meetings with the County of Erie, the City of Lackawanna, the City of Buffalo, the Western New York State Delegation and the State Historic Preservation Office.
A recent feasibility study was conducted, which yielded results that 94% of participants had positive or very positive perception of The Botanical Gardens in its current state. To that end, 83% had a positive or very positive reaction to the proposed expansion, stating that the time was right to move forward with the development effort. Those encouraging results has led to the architectural team updated the expansion plan, while working on developing construction design documents.
The multi-million-dollar expansion would add 40,000 square feet to the historic structure which will include:
- A butterfly conservatory
- State-of-the-art educational classrooms
- New grow houses
- Expanded exhibit and event spaces
- A café
- A new visitor entrance
- A larger gift shop
It’s tough to determine which one of these new additions is deemed to be the most exciting aspects once complete. For years, there have been talks about the importance of a café to draw visitors, and to retain them. And not many people ever anticipated the advent of a butterfly conservatory, which will be a huge draw.
All of these exciting elements will lend themselves towards creating a true multifaceted world-class destination.
It is estimated that when completed, the Botanical Gardens’ expansion will attract over 220,000 visitors annually.
New York State Assembly Member Pat Burke said, “Given the success of the Buffalo Botanical Gardens over the past ten years and how audiences have soared, I am pleased to support the efforts to expand the current facility. The plans reveal a well thought out expansion to address current issues and ensure a visitor experience that is the desire of modern audiences.”
“The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens is an important historical and cultural asset, and through this plan, investments will be made not only in the surrounding community, but in the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted,” said Senator Tim Kennedy, New York State Senate, 63rd District. “Through this transformative master plan, the Gardens will have the ability to reach its fullest potential, and create new educational and economic opportunities for our greater region and state.”
The expansion will ultimately be possible with the help of public and private funders. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2020 with completion expected in the fall of 2022.
Following are concept renderings from NYC-based architect Toshiko Mori for proposed $14 million expansion.