Wichita City Council to look at proposed Botanica expansion

A $1.15 million Botanica expansion that includes a 7,000-square-foot events center will go before the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.

Council members will consider a capital improvements project that would add additional space to the public gardens’ main administrative building at 701 Amidon, just west of downtown Wichita.

The events center would host additional activities, including children’s education programs, weddings and additional rentals. The expansion would include restrooms, a catering kitchen, staff offices and storage.

The project is included in the city’s long-term capital improvement plan, and budgeted for 2012 and 2013, according to city documents.

Mayor Carl Brewer said the city’s a satisfied partner in the expansion of the public gardens.

“We’ll see what they bring to us on Tuesday, but based on what I know today I’m very happy with what they’ve done,” the mayor said.

“It’s something that’s part of city beautification, and it gives citizens an opportunity to go there and be educated on various plants, flowers and trees,” Brewer said. “The private sector has been very active investing in those gardens and volunteer participation is high. It’s a great tourist attraction that’s nice to have in Wichita.”

Botanica director Marty Miller did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

The new events center would replace a portable building donated by the Wichita school district that has housed staff for 25 years.

One immediate use of the additional space, city officials said, will be for children’s education programs, in growing demand since the opening in July of the Downing Children’s Garden. The city earlier contributed $1.56 million to the $4.76 million children’s garden project, with the remainder from private donors. Botanica also provides in-kind rentals to garden clubs and other groups.

The children’s garden reflects Kansas landscapes, with themed areas like a farm with raised beds and a working water pump, a giant tree and tree house, an enchanted glen for storytelling, puppet shows and chalk drawing, a musical maze, giant trees and a pond.

Other possible Botanica expansions include the addition of gardens representing Wichita’s Sister Cities, the mayor said: Orleans, France; Tlalnepantla, Mexico; Cancun, Mexico; and Kaifeng, China.

Botanica, which opened in 1987, has 24 themed gardens and exhibits over more than nine acres of gardenscaping with more than 3,600 species of plants.

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