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Open house to showcase proposed Conservatory improvements

July 13, 2016

Design evolved in response to public comments; restoration remains the priority

The public is invited to view and discuss final schematic designs for the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory at an open house at 6 p.m. July 21 at Metro Parks Tacoma headquarters, 4702 S. 19th St., Tacoma.

The conservatory, at 316 S. G St., in Wright Park, is a Victorian-style greenhouse built in 1908. In late 2015, Metro Parks introduced plans to upgrade the aging facility and expand its space to support its mission to connect people with nature.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Andrea Smith, a member of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners and a conservatory booster. “It’s nice to see something in reality that the public has agreed with in terms of how to expand and move forward.”

The primary goal is to repair and restore the original building. The conservatory needs a new heating and ventilation system, plus a host of other repairs, upgrades and structural improvements including new paint, windows, gutters, wiring, lighting, steel supports, and historically accurate facades.

The latest plan would open new exhibition space in the south wing of the conservatory by relocating its gift shop inside a new entrance to be built outside the existing north wing. From the new entry, visitors could walk into the conservatory’s north wing or take a set of stairs to a new exhibit area: a geodesic dome down the hill and behind the existing building.

The new heating and ventilation system would be housed underground, as would new public restrooms, an office, storage areas and work space for potting plants. The roof and walls of the new entryway are designed to be “green” and support various kinds of plants.

Metro Parks allocated money from the 2014 capital improvement bond to pay for the schematic design. This is  an early step in the improvement process and will help determine costs and future fundraising needs. Completion of the entire design package depends on additional funding.

The building is one of three public Victorian-style conservatories on the West Coast and is listed on city, state and national historic registers. In all, over 3,000 glass panes cover its 12-sided dome and three wings. The conservatory houses more than 250 species of plants, including more than 200 orchids in addition to seasonal floral displays and specialty exhibits. The botanical collections and seasonal displays and exhibits support the conservatory mission to connect people with nature.

The conservatory is named for its original benefactor, W.W. Seymour. Seymour was a prominent Tacoma banker and businessman, served briefly as Tacoma’s mayor and was president of the Metropolitan Park District Board of Commissioners from 1909 until 1911.

Anyone with questions or comments who is unable to attend the meeting may call Project Manager Kristi Evans at (253) 305-1054 or send a message to kristie@tacomaparks.com. Comments also are welcome at ConservatoryFuture.org, where the final schematic designs are posted.