Olbrich Gardens Expansion - Project 1

Last Updated: 12/13/2018

Follow the Progress on our FLICKR page!

See our Progress in a Time Lapse Video - updated weekly by EarthCam® 

For instructions on how to use this link, please click HERE.

UPDATE: December 13, 2018

Project Status Update as of November 27, 2018

Daniels Construction has continued to refine the construction site by installing and compacting base material and marking out locations for the foundation elements particularly locations of the helical piers being used for foundation support.

Helical piers are being installed in the cistern footprint at the Learning Center as well as within the Greenhouse Footprint. This work will be ongoing for the next several weeks. Check out the link above to our FLICKR page to see the video of this process.

As the installation of the piers progresses, concrete caps will installed as the beginning of the foundation. Currently Daniels is beginning the concrete formwork for part of the cistern walls and sump.

We also have an observation camera on site. This camera is being leased by Daniels from a company called EarthCam®. EarthCam® provides a time lapse video of construction progress. The video is updated each week with the previous weeks progress. The update usually happens on Tuesday mornings. See the link above for access to the video and an instruction page on how to use it.

Project Status Update as of October 30, 2018

Over the past several weeks Daniels Construction has been dewatering the site and has completed the excavation for the Learning Center foundation and the rain collection cistern. Work on the new foundation will begin in the next 10 days or so with the installation of the helical piers and the concrete pier caps. This will be followed by construction of the foundation walls, cistern and below grade utilities both inside and outside the building footprint.

The Greenhouse has been completely removed. All metals, glass and plastics were recycled. The concrete used for floor slabs and foundations were crushed on site to be recycled for use on this project as base materials for the new structures. Dewatering the Greenhouse site will begin later this month followed by the excavation and pier installation for the foundation.

Project Status Update as of October 2, 2018

The abundance of rainfall received in September and another 4+ inches in the last couple of days is going to be challenging for the contractor (Daniels Construction) when they begin de-watering operations in the next week or so. Ground water is up over 2 feet since this time last year and the current level of Lake Monona has back filled the storm sewer pipe connected to Starkweather Creek.

The contractor has completed demolition of over 50% of the existing greenhouse. Building materials are being sorted for recycling. Metal, glass, and plastics are being separated from items that cannot be recycled. Concrete is being stock piled and will be crushed and re-used on site during various stages of the project.

Existing path pavers have been removed from the Learning Center construction area and the topsoil has been stripped off the site and stock piled. The top soil will be returned next summer when the exterior work is scheduled.

During the next few weeks the contractor will be dewatering the site, excavating for the foundations, staking the building footprint out, and begin installing the helical piers needed for the foundation.

Project Status Update as of September 17, 2018

  • Conservatory and Greenhouse Staff have successfully moved the reserve plant collection and supporting equipment to an alternate greenhouse location near Oregon WI. Staff will be maintaining the backup tropical plant collections and will be producing the plants for upcoming shows, sales, and next years gardens at that location while we are under construction here.

  • The Outdoor Horticulture Staff, Parks Construction Staff, and Maintenance Staff were busy last month preparing for the construction project by removing statuary, lighting, vegetation, selected trees, and the hoop houses.

  • We had our ground breaking ceremony on September 6. See the NEWS

Joe Daniels Construction Co. Inc. is currently moving into the project site, setting up perimeter project fencing, required erosion control fencing, and is preparing to begin removals and demolition in the week or so. This will be followed by stripping and stock piling top soil, and beginning excavations for the building foundations.

Project Status Update as of July 24, 2018

Status: Contract Processing

Construction Start: Sept. 10, 2018

Expected Completion: Sept. 2019

Bids were received and opened on July 12th. The apparent low bidder is Joe Daniels Construction Co., Inc. of Madison. The low bid must now be reviewed and approved by the Board of Public Works (July 25) and Common Council (August 7) after which the contract will be signed by the contractor, various city staff sections, and Mayor Soglin. We anticipate this process will be completed by late August.

Over the next several weeks Olbrich Gardens, Parks Forestry, and Parks Construction staff members will be getting ready for the construction to begin.
  • The new Learning Center will be nestled into the gardens immediately adjacent to the existing Lobby and it extends over the existing Tram Path. Olbrich Staff will be preparing this area for the contractor by removing sculptures, landscape lighting, benches, planters, and all of the smaller plant specimens from the construction area.

  • Parks Forestry will be removing larger trees to make way for construction access and all of the new features to be installed as part of the contract. These features will include the Learning Center, Greenhouse, relocated tram and pedestrian paths, Lussier Terrace, and the required fire access lane.

  • Parks Construction will be preparing new “back of house” spaces for the relocation of the four hoop houses which must be moved to make way for the new Greenhouse.

  • Conservatory/Greenhouse Staff will be relocating equipment and tropical plants to multiple locations to prepare for the demolition of the existing Greenhouse which will make room for the new Greenhouse.

We anticipate Daniels Construction to begin work on or about September 10th. Their first several tasks will be putting up perimeter safety fencing, removing existing pavements, and stripping/stockpiling topsoil in preparation for digging the foundation. Construction is estimated to be completed in September 2019.

As every gardener knows; you have to make a bit of a mess, for something wonderful to blossom later. We encourage our visitors to enjoy the gardens, attend special events, and watch the progress of the construction over the next year.

Coming SOON.......Watch for our FLICKR page to follow our progress!

Project Description:

Project 1 will provide two new elements to the Existing Olbrich Botanical Gardens (OBG) Campus:

  • The first element will be a new Learning Center to provide dedicated space for a variety of early childhood through adult educational programs offered at OBG. The Learning Center will consist of a large open space that can also be sub-divided into two or three classrooms as needed for programming flexibility. In addition, there will be an outside classroom for programming that can get a little messy; staff will have dedicated office space on the second floor.

  • The second element will replace the existing antiquated production greenhouses. The original greenhouses constructed in 1992 have reached their life expectancy and were of a European design that can no longer be supported with replacement materials and equipment.


Aerial Perspective View of the Learning Center


Project Objectives:

The architects, consultants, and city staff will have three primary objectives during the design process:

Project Schedule:

  • 1st Advertisement of Bid: June 01, 2018 Documents available on Bid Express
  • Bid Due: Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 2:00 pm
  • Construction Start: Sept. 10, 2018
  • Expected Completion: Sept. 2019

Progress Updates:  Click here to view our Project Presentation

May 14, 2018:  Q2 2018 Progress Update: MSR is wrapping up the construction documents phase in preparation of going out for bid on June 1.
  1. Several issues have come up in the last few months that have caused us to expand the scope and budget of the overall project: 

  • Poor soil conditions will be handled with an alternate style foundation construction.
  • To meet current Fire Code the entire complex (except for the Conservatory and Greenhouse) will be completely fire sprinklered.

  • We will be constructing a 60,000-gallon cistern (giant rain barrel) to recycle roof runoff to help meet our Storm Water Management requirements.

  • A significant amount of the public paths and terrace will be relocated to accommodate the Learning Center as well as the construction equipment. New terraces and paths will be installed to replace them.

April 04, 2018:  Q1 2018 Progress Update: MSR is halfway through the final design phase – Construction Documents (CDs). In this phase MSR is developing the plans and specifications to a level that will be used for the bidding documents. Currently Olbrich and other City Staff are reviewing the plans and specifications in preparation for the final push in May to complete the bid documents. We are currently still on schedule.  See above Project Schedule for dates.

January 10, 2018: Details of the project are taking shape. Learning Center and Greenhouse floor plans, finishes, and interior details are taking shape. Modifications to the existing gardens are being designed where this project will be displacing existing paths and planting exhibits. Life Safety code issues are being addressed in regards to fire truck access, and sprinkler upgrades. The PV solar panel system is a go and will be funded through the City of Madison Sustainability Improvements Budget. We are also looking into capturing storm water from our roofs to be reused for irrigation in the Conservatory to reduce the amount of city tap water that needs to be conditioned before watering the tropical plants.

September 2017: MSR has completed the Schematic Design phase. Massing concepts of the Learning Center have been significantly refined into a preferred floor plan. Classroom spaces will be on the first floor with staff spaces on the second floor. Exterior elevations have been provided and rendered with proposed materials labeled.

June 2017: MSR has completed the Pre-Design phase. This phase included reviewing the existing 2013 Master plan, making recommendations for adjustments to the Master Plan, and identifying future expansion and remodeling projects for Olbrich Botanical Gardens. General siting of the Learning Center and relocation of the Greenhouses were completed. Massing diagrams were reviewed for the proposed floor plan as well as proposed exterior elevations.

March 2017: Entered into a design contract with Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, Ltd. (MSR Design) of Minneapolis, MN. Principal Architect in charge is Traci Lesneski, Design Architect is Thomas Meyer, Project Architect is Stephen Bellairs, and Chris Wingate is Project & Sustainability Designer.

Olbrich Gardens Expansion in the News:

Summer 2018: Olbrich Garden News
Spring 2018: Olbrich Garden News
Olbrich's Expansion Project-An Interview with Project Manager Randy Wiesner

Winter 2018: Olbrich Garden News
Ask the Architects

October 16, 2017: Wisconsin State Journal
Olbrich Botanical Gardens preparing for $10 million expansion

Project History:

May 15, 2018  File #51436
Amending the Capital Budget for this project
May 01, 2018 File #50924
Authorizing the Mayor and City Clerk to execute an amendment to the MSR Design contract.
March 07, 2017  File #45810
Authorizing the Mayor and City Clerk to enter into an agreement with Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. to provide professional architectural/engineering design services and construction administration services.