A group seeking to build a botanical garden in Charlottesville’s McIntire Park has hired a Boston firm and a local company to create its design.
“Most great cities do have a garden,” said Linda Seaman, chairwoman of the nonprofit McIntire Botanical Garden. “A green space for people of all ages to come and relax and a place for them to take in the beauty of nature.”
The landscape architectural firms of Mikyoung Kim Design and Charlottesville-based Waterstreet Studios have been selected to create a design for the project, which will be developed by the nonprofit group on city parkland per a September 2015 agreement with the city.
“Over the last 20 years, our firm has really been working toward creating successful places that are family- and community-oriented that promote engagement with the environment,” said Ian Downing of Mikyoung Kim Design.
The concept of a botanical garden in McIntire Park has been floated for many years. The idea became more of a reality when a 2012 master plan for the park set aside several acres in the northeast corner of the park for “passive” use.
“As our community grows, this special green place will be ever more important to the quality of life for the people who are living here,” Seaman said. “It is our hope and our guiding force that 50 or 100 years from now, the McIntire Botanical Garden will still be a refuge for everybody living here.”
Seaman said the garden always will be free and open to the public.
The nonprofit group has lobbied for space in McIntire Park in the years before its eastern edge was taken for construction of the John W. Warner Parkway. The group was formed in 2008.
The city operated a golf course at the location for many years until operations ceased in May 2015. Parkway construction had caused the number of holes to be reduced to seven.
Since entering into the agreement, volunteers and board members of McIntire Botanical Garden have been prepping the area by taking an inventory of existing plant species.
In late 2016, members of the group’s board of directors planted the first bushes, trees and seeds to be part of the official park. They spent 2017 taking people on tours of the area in order to raise awareness and funds to hire the landscape architect.
A request for proposals to design the garden was issued last October. It was crafted with input from officials at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond and the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna.
“Our request was quite simple,” Seaman said. “It was to create a schematic design of the garden site as the first phase of the design process. Phase two and three will follow with increasingly detailed plans.”
Seaman said the joint application of Mikyoung Kim Design and Waterstreet was selected from 12 proposals.
“When we first learned of the project, there was an energy and excitement that shot through our office,” Downing said. “These sorts of projects are really the sort we aspire to work on, where the question is undefined and it’s really about creating a potential for what this garden could be.”
Downing said the project gives an opportunity to define what a 21st century botanical garden might mean.
Eugene Ryang of Waterstreet Studios said he was aware the garden has been in the works for a long time. He said one of his professors at the University of Virginia worked on a sketch more than 20 years ago when he was a first-year student.
“The seeds have been sown for a long time, and it’s been gestating for a long time,” Ryang said. “We’re really excited to be part of the sprouting of the garden right now and the future growth of it.”
Seaman said the cost for all three phases of design would be around $900,000, all of which will come from private donations. The nonprofit will also pay to construct the garden, though she said the city would pay for a parking lot, a bridge over a creek and as some stream restoration for an unnamed waterway.
She added that she hopes that at least a portion of the garden can be open by 2020.
The garden is just one of several uses under development in various parts of McIntire Park.
Work continues on a pedestrian bridge across the railroad bridge that bisects the park. A skate park is also under construction on land that formerly housed a wading pool.
The Brooks Family YMCA opened its doors last summer on the western side of the park after delays caused by a lawsuit and then increases in construction costs.
As part of the construction of the parkway, the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial was upgraded with a new viewing area and pathways.