The San Antonio Botanical Garden, the city’s urban oasis where people are connected to the plant world, is making plans for a dramatic expansion that will increase the Mahncke Park destination to 38 acres.
The seven-acre expansion will give the Botanical Garden even more green space, and a new main entrance and welcome center. A 2.5-acre Family Adventure Garden will include an acequia, and other water learning features for children. Nearby classrooms will be used for community and school programs. An outdoor events pavilion will include a professional kitchen and culinary garden.
“These Funston properties were acquired by the non-profit San Antonio Botanical Garden Society over the past 20 years and deeded to the City for future growth of the Garden.” said Bob Brackman, the Botanical Garden’s executive director. “The City’s 2012 bond appropriated $1.2 million toward the project. Right now we are still in the ‘quiet phase’ of fundraising. The capital campaign is focusing on foundations and private donors, and meeting goals to initiate the first phase of the project.”
Finding seven available acres in the urban core would not be possible in most cities the size of San Antonio, but Funston Place ends in an empty block with no residences or street activity with Fort Sam Houston bordering it. The expanded Botanical Garden will become one more public amenity located on or near the Broadway Corridor. Patrons and visitors will enter the grounds on Funston, while the existing entrances will be integrated into the landscape.
Brackman didn’t put a price tag on the planned expansion, but a formidable professional team has been assembled, led by Christy Ten Eyck of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, with offices in Austin and Phoenix. Ten Eyck’s portfolio of work includes the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Here in San Antonio, the firm is working on the six-acres of grounds at the Do-Seum on Broadway across from Brackenridge Park, which is slated to open this summer, and on the green space that will front the Emma Hotel at the Pearl, also slated to open later this year.
“We are so excited about our work at the Garden, there’s going to be a beautiful entrance welcoming visitors, and there will be amazing ways to connect urban kids with the aquifer and nature,” said Ten Eyck. “The Family Adventure experience will allow kids to really frolic and play, but at the same time they’ll be learning the story of water and the South Texas landscape.
“The deeper you get into the Garden, the wilder and wilder it gets,” she added. “We’ll try to inspire people to see how they can bring nature into their own homes.”
Ten Eyck Architects will be working with Weddle Gilmore Architects of Scottsdale, a firm noted for its environmentally sensitive building designs found at a range of nature preserves, trailheads, zoos and museums. Natural Learning Initiative based at North Carolina State University’s College of Design specializes in the nexus between landscape architecture, urban planning and early childhood learning. Terra Design Studios, a land use consultancy based in Washington state, is working with Ten Eyck on the design of the 2.5-acre Family Adventure Garden.
It’s a remarkable assembly of experience and talent. Brackman said a groundbreaking date will be announced soon. In the meantime, the Botanical Garden offers a very different South Texas winter experience for those who have visited only during warmer months.
“Our hilltop setting offers dramatic vistas, with views to downtown and west toward the Hill Country because the trees have shed their leaves,” Brackman said. “Now is the time to enjoy the details of the Garden – a handsome succulent garden at the entrance, sleeping bluebonnets getting ready for spring bloom, plants that thrive in cold and drought conditions, and the fallow beds of the children’s vegetable garden waiting for February planting.”
On chilly days, of course, there is always the Lucile Halsell Conservatory, which offers five glasshouses filled with exotic plants from around the world. The Kleberg Desert Pavilion features succulent plants from Mexico and South Africa. And the 65-foot Palm and Cycad Pavilion offers bi-level views of the Conservatory’s architecture.
Like many of San Antonio’s unique places, the Botanical Garden is built on the site of a former limestone quarry. It opened in 1980, but its roots date back to the 19th century. Your can read about the area history here. It also happens to be one of the most affordable destinations for families with children, couples, and seniors. (Read more: Weekend Date: Legos at the Botanical Garden.)
*Featured/top image: Rendering of the San Antonio Botanical Garden entry from Garden Boulevard. Courtesy image.