The Chicago Botanic Garden's ten-year strategic plan, "Keep Growing," was launched in 2009. The Keep Growing plan includes a $125 million capital and endowment initiative to enable the Garden to continue to engage, educate, and inspire, and to improve plant and ecosystem health close to home and around the world. So far, 55 percent of the $83.3 million capital goal has been raised, leaving $39 million still to be raised for our two most important projects, the Kris Jarantoski Campus and the Learning Campus. (Click here for more information about the Garden's capital projects.)
In June 2013, the Board of Directors unanimously approved Plants for Life 2020, a campaign to raise $90 million to complete the objectives of the strategic plan. A highlight of the Plants for Life plan was naming the horticulture campus on the south end of the Garden the Kris Jarantoski Campus to honor Kris's guiding vision and 37 years of extraordinary service to the Garden.
The Garden's master plan moved forward last year not only through the success of its capital fundraising but through the completion of designs for the Learning Campus (the Education Center and Mikyoung Kim garden) and the Jarantoski Campus (new greenhouses and nurseries, and the Wirtz International garden). Construction for the main nursery began in early 2014 and is scheduled for completion in 2015.
As we plan for the future, we think deeply about how to protect and enhance the Chicago Botanic Garden for the next generation and beyond. At every turn, our decisions are inextricably tied to, and informed by, the principles of sustainability. We pledge to continue to lower our carbon footprint (through solar power and other means) and to preserve our natural resources (by collecting rainwater for our plants, for instance). We are committed to building a sustainable future and to showing tangible, measureable results.
In 2013, the Garden recycled 93,875 pounds of material. The Plant Production department's staff washed and disinfected plastic pots with the help of volunteers at nine pot-washing events held throughout the year; the pots then were reused in the greenhouses, which supply plants throughout the Garden for seasonal displays, special events, and more. Each year, 90 percent of the material that comes through the production greenhouses is recycled or reused.
The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, which opened in 2009, has a gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. The Education Center, planned for the Learning Campus, is designed to earn a platinum LEED rating; when complete, it will be the most comprehensive and sustainably designed environmental education campus of any public garden in the world. The Jarantoski Campus will include new energy-efficient greenhouses, and two buildings in its future nursery will generate solar power and feed electricity back to the production greenhouses and the new Education Center.
In conjunction with the Garden's sustainability efforts, in 2008 the Garden stopped selling bottled water at the café, and in 2011, the Garden expanded its dishwashing and storage areas in order to change from using disposable plates, bowls, and flatware to using reusable chinaware. Also in 2011, the Garden began composting food scraps as part of its café operations. In 2013, the café diverted 38 tons of waste from landfills by composting and recycling. The Garden also recycled 131 pounds of cork last year.
There is much more that the Garden does in gardening and landscaping, building design and use, and saving energy to be as sustainable as possible.
Looking Toward 2014 and Beyond
Two major capital improvement projects are on the Garden's horizon.
The Learning Campus is a developing destination at the Chicago Botanic Garden for visitors of all ages—infants to adults—that has entered a new phase: the design for the Education Center and garden is now complete.
The Center's programs will focus on plants and the complex environmental factors—climate, water, human development, and invasive species—that support or undermine healthy ecosystems. The goal is to provide both familiar and new ways of exploring and understanding science and environmental sustainability for students from diverse backgrounds from preK through Ph.D. and beyond. Ultimately, the Center will develop not only new generations of scientists, but also better-informed and healthier citizens and environmental stewards. And over time, it will increase our capacity to serve all students by 90 percent.
The 25,000-square-foot Center features eight classrooms, a large training and education kitchen, and a nature laboratory. It is designed to achieve the highest rating for environmental design.
The south end of the Center will open onto a partially shaded terrace that can accommodate classes or simply offer comfortable seating and viewing of a new garden designed by Mikyoung Kim. This beautiful and creatively designed landscape, featuring gently rolling turf, a meandering stream, and tree-shaded wide paths, will be fully accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
The Learning Campus and its components will advance the Chicago Botanic Garden's influence as a science and education institution, extend its capacity to address conservation challenges across the globe, and serve the Chicago region with inspiring plant-based programs of excellence.
The beauty and wonder of plants are integral to a living museum such as the Chicago Botanic Garden. Each year, nearly 25,000 plants—annuals, perennials, flowering bulbs, and woody plants—make their way through the Garden's production area. Our facilities have aged since the first greenhouses were build in 1969, becoming antiquated and inefficient, and constraining the Garden's ability to inspire and keep growing.
To continue to maintain and even redefine the horticultural excellence for which the Garden is known, we have designed a new, expanded plant production facility on the south end of our campus. The upated facility, along with an innovative display garden, will also ensure the Garden's ability to support advanced plant conservation research and expand its highly successful plant-based education programs.
The Kris Jarantoski Campus features a serpentine landscape design by Wirtz International that unites the entire south campus, including the plant production facilities and the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, with Evening Island and the Dixon Prairie. When complete, the Jarantoski Campus will transform the south end of the Garden, little known by the public, into a major destination.
New energy-efficient greenhouses will increase the growing space from its 18,000 square feet to more than 55,000 square feet. The structures will have 26 climate-controlled zones compared the 11 currently in place, and the new outdoor nursery space will be 150,000 square feet.
One of the most important improvements will be an orchidarium comprising four new orchid houses. These orchid houses will allow the Garden to grow and maintain an unusual collection of orchids and tropical plants. In addition, new bonsai studios with four different environments will enhance the Garden's already renowned Bonsai Collection.
Projects Slated for Completion in 2014
In partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the Garden is creating a beautiful, safe, mulituse trail to connect the North Branch Trail of the Forest Preserves with the Green Bay Trail at the Braeside Metra station in Highland Park. In 2013 plans for an extension of the North Branch Trail were finalized, and in early 2014 construction began on the project. The trail is scheduled to open in August.
Plans for renovating the Garden Café were completed in 2013 as part of the strategic plan. Construction began in January 2014, and the popular "quick casual" café reopened several months later as the Garden View Café, with streamlined service, locally sourced food, and many new sustainable components.