The dahlias on bloom in Volunteer Park? Those are free to enjoy. Today, a visit to the Volunteer Park Conservatory is, too.
But a plan being considered by Seattle Parks is likely to change that as the City of Seattle looks for ways to move the facility toward a more self-sufficient fture.
In a briefing to the City Council at Tuesday’s hearing on Seattle’s 2012 budget proposal, Parks head Christopher Williams said his department is spending $50,000 to hire a consultant to look at plans for the Conservatory to “operate with a lower level of general fund support.”
The 2012 budget line items call for the facility to have $159,000 in Conservatory funding “redirected” to Parks general fund support.
During the briefing, Williams said the study will look at the feasibility of the conservatory being able to operate with lower level of general fund support. The goal, he said, may not be 100% self-sufficient — “but maybe 40, 50 or 60%.”
The parks superintendent said the consultant will look at the capital development needs for the conservatory. “We need a model that provides the conservatory with a pathway to generating revenue,” Williams said.
Currently, visitors are asked to donate when they visit the conservatory. “What are the elasticity of fees?” Williams asked, citing examples of other facilities like Chicago’s Garfield Conservatory that is also used as a “civic gathering place” and rented out for events and weddings.
In the meantime, the facility’s volunteer supporters say the conservatory needs millions in work to preserve the historic asset. As the park is approaching its 100 year anniversary, the Friends of the Volunteer Park conservatory are in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $3.5 million for the facility.
Williams said the plan is to have a proposal for the changes to the Conservatory on the mayor’s desk by spring.
Landmark nomination for Volunteer Park goes forward
Meanwhile, there is good news for supporters of the effort to designate Volunteer Park as an official Seattle landmark and afford it with greater protection from changes that could be brought about from nearby development or the eventual capping of the reservoir inside the park’s bounds.
Last week, The Landmarks Board unanimously approved the nomination of Volunteer Park prepared by the group Friends of Seattle’s Olmstead Parks. The board’s designation meeting is scheduled for November 2. The Friends group asks anybody who would like to support the landmark designation to write to the board — you can email your letter to Beth.Chave@seattle.gov.
The designation could also provide another set of factors to contend with as plans are baked for a $800,000 overhaul of the park’s playground.