The Next Step in San Diego Botanic Garden’s Growth

It was a year ago that I reported in Quail Tracks that an announcement was made by the Leichtag Foundation of their intent to purchase the Ecke Ranch. On December 20 of last year that purchase was finalized. Then at our annual meeting on January 5, Jim Farley, President and CEO of the Leichtag Foundation, gave a presentation entitled “Does the San Diego Botanic Garden have Expansion in its Future?” Posing the title as a question was appropriate, for what Jim presented was a challenge to the Garden’s leadership, its members, and all of the political leaders present that it would be up to them to see if the Garden would have expansion in its future. There are important things that we need to get

Jim announced that the Leichtag Foundation is prepared to make a donation of land for the expansion of the Garden to accommodate the fulfillment of the Garden’s master plan. However, he explained that as a potential major donor to the San Diego Botanic Garden, the Leichtag Foundation wants to be assured of the long-term stability of the Garden and of the Garden’s financial ability to implement its master plan on the donated land.

Thankfully, we have time before we will be asked to meet the requirements to occupy the donated land. We will continue to inform and involve you, our valued members and donors, in the process as we move forward. Jim’s presentation did not specify a time limit, but he acknowledged it would take years before the Garden would be ready to move onto Ecke Ranch land. This expansion is clearly of great importance to the Garden, and the community that we serve, and it will be pursued concurrently with the Garden’s next big step.

In fact, there is another major project which we need to accomplish before we would begin to raise funds for the expansion. Our master plan calls for a second phase to the very successful Hamilton Children’s Garden (HCG). There is space next to the HCG that has, from the beginning of the planning process, been reserved for a structure that would give the Garden a much larger indoor venue for programing.
The new Education and Events Pavilion will provide an enclosed meeting and event space for up to 400 visitors and promises to become the new hub for education and community involvement for North County and the region. The Pavilion will include a large, completely glass-enclosed main hall, multiple classrooms, full kitchen for catering and cooking classes, amphitheater, and access to expanded

While the Garden is an outdoor facility, certain types of educational programming are best experienced indoors. Currently, the number and quality of programs that can be offered is limited by the Garden’s available meeting space. The Garden’s largest indoor space has a capacity of 96 people. Visiting speakers routinely draw crowds that exceed the room’s capacity, and we have to turn away community members and groups who would rent the Garden’s facilities if we had a larger indoor space. As attendance and membership at the Garden continue to grow, our need for an attractive, versatile and functional facility also increases.

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The extraordinary design and beauty of the new Pavilion will be breathtaking. It will include a 5,900 square foot glass and metal beam structure which will invite views of the outdoors from every side while providing year-round protection from the weather and the capacity to meet the needs of all who use the Garden. The Pavilion main hall – walls and roof – will be made of retractable glass to provide an open atmosphere that invites the outdoors into indoor spaces and enables expansion onto a wrap-around patio when needed.

Designed to blur the lines between indoors and out, it will be a dynamic hub of activities during the day and evening for our community, staff and volunteers. The Pavilion will be a unique visitor destination for all ages, even when it is not used for classes or events, thanks to the same creative design team that brought Toni’s Tree House to life in the Hamilton Children’s Garden. Exotic botanical wonders that are not typically found in the Garden or in the region will thrive in the conservatory-like glass structure.
The successful implementation of the Education and Events Pavilion will also be an important step in setting the stage for the eventual campaign to expand the Garden. Nothing of great value comes easily, but dedication, determination and talent have been the qualities of all those who have made the current successes of the Garden possible.

The fact that we have been offered the opportunity to expand is, in and of itself, affirmation of the Garden’s relevance and good management. We have many unsung heroes to thank for this. Among them is a person who spent the past two years as Board Chair. Jim Ruecker has been tireless in his dedication, and I join others in thanking him for helping to position the Garden for an exciting future.
Jim has passed the Chairmanship to Tom Applegate, who comes very well prepared for this role as having been most recently in the same leadership role for the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation. I welcome Tom as the new Board Chair and as a person who embraces the importance of the time we are in to ensure that the San Diego Botanic Garden continues to grow and meet the needs of our community.

Julian Duval

From Julian Archived Messages