The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, Inc. is currently completing the schematic design phase for a multi-million-dollar expansion that would add 32,000 square feet to the historic structure. This project will help the Botanical Gardens meet the needs of our community, spark surrounding development, generate over $9.1 million in economic impact and create hundreds of new jobs.
The Botanical Gardens expansion will include a seasonal pollinator exhibit, modern and accessible classrooms, new growing, exhibit, and event spaces, improved visitor amenities and more. The Botanical Gardens has exceeded its capacity to accommodate current community needs and demands and this expansion will better serve audiences that have grown exponentially within the past decade.
The Majority Leader of the New York State Assembly, Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes commented, “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. Governor 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 and 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.
By adding a signature architectural element 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 2025. The project will enhance the tourist value of a historically significant property which attracts architecture enthusiasts and garden tourists.
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 their Main Street and city center where $2.5 million of New York State funding has already been allocated. Along with these important projects, the Botanical Gardens can be a catalyst for business development, education and tourism.
The former Mayor of the City of Lackawanna, Geoffrey Szymanski stated, “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 2019-2024. 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 is 24.3% which is higher than the New York 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.
Assemblymember Sean Ryan notes, “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.”
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 2023 with completion expected in the fall of 2025. 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.
posted November 27, 2019
The Buffalo Botanical Gardens Continues to Gather Support for an Exciting 40,000 Square Foot Expansion
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 that the plan addresses the needs of our community.
In early 2014, the Botanical Gardens’ Board of Directors determined that 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 the following: 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, the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society and many more. 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,” 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."
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 illicit 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. 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 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 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 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”
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 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."