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Landscape Designer Teams With Non-Profit on Downtown Louisville Botanical Garden Project

A landscape design firm is partnering with a Louisville non-profit to develop a botanical garden at the intersection of River Road and Frankfort Avenue.Brian Voelker, president of Botanica—the group working to bring the garden to the city—said the long-term project will cost nearly $35 million.The project will be funded through donations. Voelker said the project is already gaining financial support; more than $250,000 has been raised.“We haven’t started our major capital campaign just yet, but even at this early stage we have been really pleased with the amount of fundraising we have been able to do with this project,” he said.The Chicago-based design company Perkins-Will was selected in part for their ability to work with complex projects, he said.Voelker said the land set to be turned into the garden is a former landfill and Botanica has a land-use agreement with Metro Louisville and a plan to eventually purchase the property.But some things will have to happen before the group will be able to buy.“Some of those include completing a design, completing environmental analysis,” Voelker said. “The biggest milestone that we have is raising $2 million as feed money for future gardens.”All of the milestones should be completed in “the next couple of years,” Voelker said.Though the project has a high pricetag, Voelker said once the garden is completed there will be an economic benefit to the city.“Different gardens across the country have seen that tourism gets a real bump when you have a botanical garden in the community,” he said. “People tend to extend their stay when their traveling to a city so they can spend some time in the botanical garden.”Voelker said there will be about 20 employees hired to maintain the completed garden, along with a crew of volunteers.The botanical garden will aim to educate visitors through engagement with various ecosystems and natural environments.“You could almost think of it as going to something like the zoo,” Voelker said. “But instead of looking at different animals you go to look at different plants.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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