On Saturday, June 14, the Bellevue Botanical Garden's new visitor center will open. Designed by Olson Kundig Architects, it's a spacious 8,500 square-foot building that opens to surrounding gardens.
A ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday will kick off a weekend of events through 4 p.m. Sunday, June 15 at the garden. Events will include a ceremonial tree planting, docent led-tours, and special performances by the Sammamish Youth Chamber Orchestra.
The center includes an outdoor covered orientation space, gift shop, meeting space, offices and restrooms. Multi-purpose classrooms and meeting spaces were also integrated to meet the rising interest in garden education and accommodate a wide range of programming.
Extensive landscaping work complements the new center and enhances the outdoor circulation space. Existing gardens were improved and new gardens were created and named: The Sun Courtyard, Spring Court and Iris Rain Garden.
In addition, the parking lot was expanded to more than double the previous capacity, and provides safer access to the visitor center. The former visitor center, the original home of Cal and Harriet Shorts, will continue to serve as a gathering space for the garden.
Voters approved the $10 million project in the 2008 Parks & Natural Areas Levy, and the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society committed $5 million towards the project through its Growing a Living Legacy private fundraising campaign.
"The new visitor center has been a dream of the city and Bellevue Botanical Garden Society since the City Council set aside 17-acres as a botanical garden in 1989," said Patrick Foran, Parks & Community Services director. "The nationally-recognized Gardens now encompass 53 acres within Wilburton Park, and this beautiful building culminates many years of planning and hard work."
In 1984, the Shorts deeded their home and seven acres of gardens to the city to become a public park. In the same year the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society was formed to promote the use of the Shorts property as a botanical garden. Another 19 acres south of the garden was set aside as a botanical reserve.
The garden opened in 1992, and thrives because of strong community support, including the partnerships between the city and the BBG Society and numerous other community groups.
With more than 300,000 visitors a year, the Botanical Garden is one of the city's most popular destinations. The destination features restored woodlands and natural wetlands, showcasing plants that thrive in the Pacific Northwest.
The Botanical Garden is open daily, and tours of the new facility and grounds are available every Saturday and Sunday through October. Admission is free.
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