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Cornell Plantations Breaks Ground on Welcome Center

By Krishna Ramanujan

In a construction zone with backhoes and piles of dirt surrounded by a chain-link fence, a gray wall is built into Comstock Knoll. By the end of this year, the site will house Cornell Plantations' new sustainably designed welcome center.

On a drizzly gray day last October, visitors were cheered by a groundbreaking ceremony for the Cornell Plantations Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center at the Mullestein Winter Garden, next to Plantations Road.

Breaking ground at the new Plantations welcome center
Jason Koski/University Photography

Breaking ground for the Welcome Center are (from left) Cornell Project, Design, and Construction Director John Kiefer; Glenn Dallas '58 (representing Maddi Dallas '58, co-chair of the Plantations 21st Century Committee); Dean Susan Henry; and Plantations Director Don Rakow.

"Plantations has long needed a single site where we can greet visitors, provide them with orientation and interpretation about our history and collections, and meet visitor amenity needs," says Don Rakow, MPS '77, PhD '87, the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations.

The building, planned for completion by Trustee/Council Weekend in October 2010, will comply with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification standards. The first floor will be bermed into Comstock Knoll in the heart of the botanical garden. The contractor is using partly reused materials and is recycling the construction waste. The building will use 30 percent less energy than industry standards require and will include both a green roof and solar panels.

The center will feature a bright two-story atrium and lobby, interpretive exhibits about Cornell Plantations, a reception desk, restrooms, a gift shop, and a small cafe. To better serve Plantations' education and outreach programs, the second floor will include a 100-seat classroom/lecture hall and a 10-seat conference room.

The new center is the capstone project of a long series of capital improvements at Plantations that began a dozen years ago, says Rakow. Other upgrades will include a new parking area with a tour-bus drop-off zone.

"Plantations is a model for all the world to look to for its sustainable gardening and land management practices, native plant conservation, and habitat preservation and restoration," said Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences.