June 18, 2012 – Des Moines, IA
DES MOINES, IA — The plans to transform the Des Moines Botanical Center into the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden were approved by the Des Moines City Council at the Council’s June 11 meeting.
"The expanded and enhanced Botanical Center will be a world class attraction located along the Riverwalk in downtown Des Moines,” said City Manager Rick Clark. “This is the sort of facility that makes Des Moines a great city. I am appreciative of the citizens and businesses who have provided the leadership and the funding to make this project a reality.”
The master plan was submitted to the City of Des Moines earlier this spring and quickly moved through the committee approval process, with stops at Urban Design Review, Planning and Zoning, and Parks and Recreation. The City Council’s approval gives the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden the green light for design development of Phase I enhancements.
Phase I Master Planning
Since December 2011, the design for the Botanical Garden has evolved from a vision plan to a robust master plan that embraces the borrowed landscape of downtown Des Moines and the Des Moines River, using the entire 14-acre parcel of land.
The boundary of Phase I is still being defined as the nonprofit continues to raise money towards the $11.6 million dollar goal. Landscape improvements include a new entry garden, water garden, tree allée, event lawn encircled by perennial borders, display gardens, reconfiguration of the parking lot, and preparation for future development.
The Phase I building enhancements include an office suite, gift shop, cafe, water garden terrace, a botany science lab, updated meeting room decor and configuration, and horticultural service features.
One of the four greenhouses on the property will be removed to provide a service and emergency access lane east of the conservatory.
History of the Botanical Garden Concept
The effort to evolve the Botanical Center into the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden was started by J.C. “Buz” Brenton about 5 years ago. Brenton recruited community leaders Janis Ruan, Fred Weitz, and Tom Urban to craft a first-class botanical garden in the greater Des Moines area. The new name was chosen to reflect the expansion of the mission beyond that of a “center.”
In June of 2011, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden launched “A New Beginning” capital campaign with a $3 million lead gift from DuPont. "Without the confidence and commitment of the DuPont Corporation to the new Botanical Garden we would have had a much harder time achieving the goal,” said Urban, board chair of the Botanical Garden. “Their continued commitment to the success of the project is much appreciated.”
In February 2012, the campaign goal was raised from $10 million to $11.6 million to accommodate gifts received to support an annual speaker series, a botany science lab and associated programming. To date, the non-profit has raised $10.1 million.
In November 2011, the nonprofit adopted a new mission statement: “Exploring, explaining, and celebrating the world of plants.”
Widespread Support Expressed
The Botanical Garden will receive $645,000 per year in operational support for the first 10 years from the City of Des Moines, Des Moines Water Works, and Bravo of Greater Des Moines. “With cities everywhere experiencing budget cuts, this plan not only prevents the loss of the Botanical Center, but greatly enhances it and brings it to a new level, using private dollars. It's a win-win situation for everyone,” said Joe Galloway, chair of the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Board.
Ward 2 City Council member Bob Mahaffey affirmed the plans for the garden. “I am very proud of the new Botanical Garden project,” Mahaffey said. “It will be great to have a facility that will be recognized nationally and bring travelers to our area to enjoy the quality gardens we will have in Des Moines. The non-profit that has formed should be complimented for the efforts put in to accomplish a quality project of this nature. I look forward to the completion of the new facility and the gardens.” The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is located in Ward 2.
Neighboring Ward 4 City Council member Brian Meyer concurs. “The revamped Botanical Garden will be a tremendous asset to not only downtown Des Moines but the entire Metro area and it will be an excellent complement to the Principal Riverwalk,” Meyer said. “It will be an attraction that will bring together all ages. The work that is done ensures that future generations can enjoy it for years to come."
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a nonprofit organization that assumed the 501(c)(3) status of the Friends of the Botanical Center. The Friends formed in 1969 to raise money to support the Botanical Center. A revamped Friends organization will assist the new organization with events, membership, and spreading the excitement.
The lease with the City of Des Moines begins on January 1, 2013. Phase I construction will begin in early 2013. Until that date, Des Moines Water Works will continue to operate the Botanical Center as it has since January 2004.
On January 1, 2013 the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden launched a new beginning. After years of planning, a bold vision, generous community support and a new staff, the Botanical Garden assumed operatorship of a 34-year old conservatory and 14 acres of land bordering the Des Moines River. Armed with a mission of exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants, we are a garden now. The Botanical Garden is a 501(c)(3) privately governed, not-for-profit institution with ten years of operating support at $645,000 per year from the City of Des Moines, Des Moines Water Works and Bravo Greater Des Moines. In addition, the Phase II Endowment goal will grow the total endowment to $3.6 million.