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Botanical Gardens expansion gets big financial boost from state

The Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens has received a big boost to its expansion plans from New York State.

Empire State Development awarded a $500,000 grant to help the South Buffalo cultural attraction build a 36,000-square-foot glass addition designed by architect Toshiko Mori. The expansion also includes a butterfly conservatory, expanded and consolidated grow houses, and a larger admission area and main entrance. The expansion also includes a cafe, expanded exhibit spaces and educational classrooms.

"We are certainly happy and pleased that our local legislators supported our request last year, and we are hopeful we can continue to raise the funds we need to make this project a reality," said David Swarts, the Botanical Gardens' president and chief executive officer.

The funding – obtained through the competitive Market New York grant process – brings the Botanical Gardens financial commitments for the expansion to nearly $9 million, almost half of the anticipated $18.5 million cost.

"We have several requests in for additional funding to support the project through corporations and foundations," Swarts said. "If they come through, then that $9 million would grow substantially. We are in the process to secure that funding."

“Through this state funding, New York is continuing to invest in the mission and vision of Frederick Law Olmsted, the future of the Gardens and the programming it provides to thousands of people every year,” said State Sen. Tim Kennedy.

"This demonstrates that New York State has confidence in this project moving forward," Assemblyman Sean Ryan said. "We anticipate further assistance to the Botanical Gardens as the project progresses. We all recognize how important the Botanical Gardens is to Western New York."

The Botanical Gardens drew 147,000 visitors in 2019 and anticipates attendance growing with the expansion to more than 220,000 visitors annually by 2023.

More than 250 construction jobs are expected, with the staff of 16 full-time and 11 part-time workers expected to nearly double.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall of 2020, with completion in fall 2022.

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