An ambitious plan to restore and revitalize the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, known as the Domes, and its surrounding public park aims to enhance Milwaukee’s efforts to be a green city. It would also build upon community health benefits that the conservatory and park provide as valued urban destination and oasis. Additionally, current and expanded facilities would support more educational programming, as well as varied gardens, job training and academic research.
Area residents, at a recent public hearing hosted by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, expressed overwhelming support for restoring the historic glasshouses, refurbishing the 61-acre park and increasing usage of both. One common theme expressed was that the Domes offer access to respite and nature, especially in winter, and are part of Milwaukee’s “heart and soul.” Zaina Gonzalez, a neighbor, said that proposed renovations and “resources will allow our community to come together as a whole and connect” in new ways.
The project includes repairing the cone-shaped glasshouses, considered unique in the world, and increasing the Domes’ capacity as a horticultural center and destination. The 160-page plan was developed by a team led by ArtsMarket, a firm that specializes in cultural and heritage feasibility and planning. The proposed architectural design by Milwaukee-based Engberg Anderson Architects includes full restoration of the neglected structures and expansion of the complex. A new 15,000-square-foot visitor center would be built south of the Domes, with a snack bar and extensive retail space to sell gifts and plants.
Additionally, according to the plan, “the visitor center’s lower level will house an expansive hall to host events—from weddings to farmers’ markets to horticultural or medical research symposia and gatherings of schoolchildren. The hall will feature an immediate view of the 23,000-square-foot, revamped, sunken, water garden plaza, located just outside, and easily accessible to, the wedding garden directly east of the building.” Other proposed improvements to Mitchell Park include restoration of the historic lagoon and renovation of the pavilion that overlooks it. Madison, Wis.-based Saiki Design, a landscape design firm, has also contributed to this plan.
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