The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society Inc. adopted a master plan for the future of the Botanical Gardens and has engaged the community to measure and gain support for the proposed 40,000-square-foot expansion. Informational meetings have been conducted with local community organizations, partners, government entities and community leaders to explain the expansion plan and secure input to ensure the plan addresses the needs of the community.
In early 2014, the Botanical Gardens’ board of directors determined a refreshed master plan was needed to fulfill its mission and vision for the future. The Botanical Gardens also developed and is implementing a comprehensive strategic plan that aligns with the new master plan, which has already resulted in significant improvements to programs and events. The refreshed master and strategic plans are designed to enhance the overall visitor experience that creates a complementary architectural program encompassing existing interior and exterior spaces with no changes to the original historic Lord & Burnham structure.
The Buffalo Botanical Gardens has been meeting with stakeholders in the community over the past several years to gauge and garner feedback and support for this massive project. David Swarts, Botanical Gardens/CEO, has discussed the expansion plan with many individuals and organizations, 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. Swarts regularly meets with local government officials to provide updates and field questions on the status of the project.
The County of Erie, through a public private partnership agreement, is a key stakeholder in any planning and capital projects occurring at the Botanical Gardens and is fully engaged in the process. Meetings have taken place with elected officials from the County of Erie, the City of Lackawanna, the City of Buffalo, the Western New York state delegation and the State Historic Preservation Office.
“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,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. “I look forward to working with Botanical Gardens’ President/CEO David Swarts and his team as this plan moves forward.”
The board of directors authorized a feasibility study be conducted to obtain reaction to the Botanical Gardens future expansion plans from a diverse group of individuals from across Western New York. One on one, objective conversations took place between representatives from the Botanical Gardens and these individuals to gain their thoughts on the Botanical Gardens expansion plans. The results of this study were overwhelmingly positive, indicating strong support for moving forward on the expansion. In fact, 94% of participants in the feasibility study had a positive or very positive perception of the Botanical Gardens, 83% had a positive or very positive reaction to the proposed expansion plan, and 83% thought that the time was right to move forward with the expansion.
Based on stakeholder feedback, research and extensive interviews, the architectural team updated the expansion plan and is currently working on developing construction design documents. The multimillion-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 and a larger gift shop. When completed, the “re-invented” historic, architectural and botanical jewel will enhance the overall visitor experience and create educational opportunities to achieve a sustainable future for the Botanical Gardens for generations to come. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2020 with completion expected in the fall of 2022.
New York State Assembly Member Pat Burke said, “Given the success of the Buffalo Botanical Gardens over the past 10 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”
In 2019, the Botanical Gardens contracted with local firms to conduct environmental impact, geotechnical, geothermal, land survey assessment and traffic studies. It is estimated that, when completed, the Botanical Gardens’ expansion will attract over 220,000 visitors annually. The Botanical Gardens is currently discussing the expansion with public and private funders and will share more detailed information as the project develops.
"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 New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy, 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."
For more information about the Botanical Gardens, visit buffalogardens.com and tag @Buffalogardens when posting on social media. Proceeds benefit the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to inspire curiosity and connect people to the natural world through its historic living museum.