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The City’s expansion project with Olbrich Botanical Gardens moved forward after crews poured part of the future learning center foundation Tuesday morning.

Crews poured concrete at 7 a.m., April 23, at 3330 Atwood Ave., at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. The space will eventually be used for classes and workshops focused on connecting people with plants and the natural world, including offerings for children, adults and school field trips. The second floor of the building will include office space for education staff and an observation deck overlooking the outdoor gardens. The observation deck will be accessible to the public.

The learning center’s foundation also included a section for a 60,000 gallon cistern to store rainwater off the building roofs. The rain water will be used to water the plants in the conservatory and greenhouse. This will be a more sustainable use of water that is better for the plants and has less impact on the aquifer. As of spring 2019, Olbrich used aquifer water that is softened and then processed through reverse osmosis to irrigate the plants.

During this process, 170,000 gallons of waste water is produced each year. With the new cistern, about 75 percent of indoor irrigation will be met. This will also save $2,300 in operating costs.
The roof of the learning center will also have photovoltaic solar panels that will supply an estimated 6kW of power for Olbrich.

The other part of the project includes a new greenhouse, which will be nearly the same size as the former greenhouse. The former greenhouse needed to be replaced because it had a European design, and replacement parts to fix it were no longer available.

The expansion project cost is $12 million. The project was funded 50/50 between the City Parks Division and Olbrich Botanical Society.  

Olbrich Botanical Gardens enriches life by nourishing and sharing the beauty of gardens, the joy of gardening, the knowledge of plants, and the diversity of our world. Olbrich Botanical Gardens is dedicated to the creation, conservation and interpretation of gardens and plant collections hardy to the American Midwest or native to the world's tropical forests for study, enjoyment and public benefit.

The project is expected to be completed by mid-September 2019.