The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society Inc. is currently completing the schematic design phase for a multimillion-dollar expansion that would add 40,000 square-feet to the historic structure. This project will help the Botanical Gardens meet the needs of the community, spark surrounding development – and generate over $9.1 million in economic impact, while creating hundreds of new jobs, the venue stated.
The Botanical Gardens expansion will include a butterfly conservatory; modern and accessible classrooms; new growing, exhibit and event spaces; and improved visitor amenities. It has exceeded its capacity to accommodate current community needs and demands, so this expansion is designed to better serve audiences that have grown exponentially within the past decade.
New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said, “One of the oldest cultural institutions in Western New York, the Buffalo Botanical Gardens’ future calls for expanding its facilities to meet the needs of an ever-growing audience and ever-changing society. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made the economic renewal of WNY a priority for his administration, and his belief in the economic impact of the investment in our cultural institutions is paying off.”
Annual visitation grew by 132% from 61,116 in 2008 to 141,647 in 2018. Educational program participation has grown by 249% from 6,661 participants in 2008, to approximately 23,244 in 2018. 2019 has also proven to be a very successful year, as overall statistics are on pace to exceed 2018’s impact. When complete, the expansion will allow the Botanical Gardens to offer enhanced and accessible educational opportunities to record numbers of children and adults, including underserved populations. Providing programs for underserved populations has been a long-term commitment of the Botanical Gardens.
By adding a signature architectural element and butterfly conservatory to the existing historical structure, the expansion is expected to significantly increase current attendance, including an upsurge in tourist visitation. The project is conservatively estimating a 56% increase in visitation to over 220,000 visitors in 2023. The project will enhance the tourist value of a historically significant property that attracts architecture enthusiasts and garden tourists.
A press release said, “With proven growth, high potential for economic success, and the respect of the community, the Botanical Gardens will serve as an anchor for continued development in the southernmost part of the City of Buffalo and beyond. Western New York as a whole has seen increased tourism and abundant redevelopment and major investments to the waterfront, including the Outer Harbor. The Outer Harbor connects downtown Buffalo to the First Ward, South Buffalo, Lackawanna, Blasdell and cultural institutions and tourist destinations such as Tifft Nature Preserve, Fredrick Law Olmsted designed South Park and Arboretum, the Botanical Gardens and Our Lady of Victory Basilica that reside in these locations.”
The Botanical Gardens is not the only organization experiencing major investment and redevelopment south of Buffalo. One block away, the City of Lackawanna is redeveloping Main Street and the city center where $2.5 million of New York state funding has already been allocated.
The press release noted, “Along with these projects, the Botanical Gardens can be a catalyst for a cultural shift, driving business development, education, tourism and community inclusion to the south of the City of Buffalo.”
City of Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski said, “Redeveloping our Main Street district is an extremely important project for the future of the City of Lackawanna. We are very excited to hear that our neighbors, the Botanical Gardens, plan to expand to meet the needs of our shared communities. These two projects will spark growth, tourism and create a greater economic impact that our neighborhoods and cities desire.”
The expansion will also ensure organizational sustainability. An economic analysis of future growth conservatively projects 74% growth in revenue from 2019-24. The additional revenue generated from the expansion project will be reinvested directly into programs, help to enhance and maintain the horticulture collection, and offset increased operating costs.
Based on an economic study utilizing the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Calculator, the expansion and increased activity will have a $9.1 million annual economic impact in a location where, in 2017, the average poverty rate was 24.3%, which is higher than the state average of 15.7%. The Botanical Gardens expansion project will also generate a predicted 275 jobs in the region with the expanded facility, and 255 construction jobs during the construction phase of the project.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “This important expansion project will stimulate economic development, create hundreds of new jobs and provide a renewed vision for the future in this community. The Buffalo Botanical Gardens is an invaluable regional asset and one of the great cultural gems in Western New York. As a living museum, it offers a unique cultural experience that no other cultural organization provides.”
The press release concluded, “When completed, the reimagined 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. The Botanical Gardens has also been and is currently discussing the expansion with public and private funders and will share more detailed information as the project develops.
For more information about the Botanical Gardens, visit buffalogardens.com and tag @Buffalogardens when posting on social media.
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.