Public Meeting: Latest design for W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Renovation, restoration remain a priority for the project; expansion design smaller than before

Metro Parks Tacoma staff will show the latest plans for improvements to the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in a public meeting at 6 p.m. April 28 at Metro Parks headquarters.

The conservatory is a historic treasure that has graced the east side of Wright Park since 1908. After more than a century of use, the Victorian-style structure needs system and structural upgrades and additional space for botanical displays and interpretation. In late 2015 and earlier this year, Metro Parks unveiled schematic design options to restore and expand the conservatory.

The plans included restoration of facades, replacement of the aging heating and cooling systems and structural upgrades as well as an addition to the original building that would allow for more display space, workshop space, public restrooms and other needs identified in Wright Park’s 2005 master plan.

Metro Parks collected more than 300 surveys from community members and took note of comments in public meetings and presentations to groups in Tacoma. Citizens voiced support for many of the ideas and also concern about the scale of the additions and their impact on Wright Park. Staff had additional discussions about the scale, visitor needs, delivery of the Conservatory’s mission and the park’s master plan and decided to create a revised design with a smaller footprint that still supports the conservatory’s growing needs.

“We listened to what people said through the public process, and we’re bringing back an updated schematic design,” Project Manager Kristi Evans said.

The new design includes elements from the earlier design options that community members said they liked, such as a new domed display space.

“Most people preferred the round feel of the dome because it’s similar to the original building,” Evans said.

Much of the additional space would be below ground, hidden from view, and besides the domed display space include mechanical, public restroom, office, storage and potting areas. The Conservatory would get a new entry, while the gift shop would be moved out of the original building so the historic structure could be used nearly entirely for displays and programs. To reduce the project’s scale, Metro Parks removed a display house and cut the square footage of many behind-the-scenes areas.

Evans cautioned that drawings of the additions are schematic, meaning they show only general layouts and not exact dimensions or materials. The new dome’s exact appearance and shape, for example, won’t be determined until a later stage.

“We’re asking people to look at the layout, not the materials or shapes,” she said.

Renovations of the existing building remain a priority, and will be included in the first phase of construction; Metro Parks will give more details in the April 28 meeting. After the meeting, Metro Parks will take feedback into consideration and host an open house in June to show final schematic designs.

The 2014 capital improvement bond is funding the schematic design work. Schematic designs are an early step in the process and needed to determine costs and future fundraising needs. The bond, however, also included funding that could be used for construction, and Evans anticipated that some improvements could be undertaken in the next two years. Completion of the entire design package would depend on additional funding.

The building is one of three public Victorian-style conservatories on the West Coast and is listed on city, state and national historic registers. In all, over 3,000 glass panes cover its 12-sided dome and three wings. The conservatory houses more than 250 species of plants, including more than 200 orchids in addition to seasonal floral displays and specialty exhibits. The botanical collections and seasonal displays and exhibits support the Conservatory mission to connect people with nature.

The conservatory is named for its original benefactor, W.W. Seymour. Seymour was a prominent Tacoma banker and businessman, served briefly as Tacoma’s mayor and was president of the Metropolitan Park District Board of Commissioners from 1909 until 1911.

Anyone with questions or comments who is unable to attend the April 28 meeting may call Project Manager Kristi Evans at (253) 305-1054 or send a message to kristie@tacomaparks.com. Drawings and other information will be posted to ConservatoryFuture.org after the meeting.

Location

Metro Parks Headquarters
4702 S. 19th Street
Tacoma
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