Future of The Domes

Future of the Mitchell Park Domes

Update from FOD Executive Director

Dear Friends of the Domes Members,
The Friends of the Domes (FOD) Board of Directors would like to update you, as members of the Friends of the Domes, of our concerns with the Milwaukee County Task Force on the Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes created by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in March of 2016, and their progress on the plans for the future of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory.

The County approved and installed a temporary “fix” of netting to catch any falling debris from the three domes in the Conservatory. The netting has a guaranteed life of 5 years, but will need to be inspected thereafter to see if it needs replacing. We are now 2-1/2 years into that 5 years and the Task Force has made little progress toward defining a permanent solution.

The FOD has a seat on the Task Force, so it has a voice and is witness to what has taken place. FOD staff and various board members have attended most Task Force meetings and are encouraging me to present our concerns to our membership so you are updated on the status of the Task Force’s work and have the ability to make your feelings known as the primary source of support for our Conservatory.

Stay informed about the future of your Conservatory right here.

Voice your opinion:

  • Attend the next Task Force meeting at the Conservatory (Meeting scheduled for July 10 - cancelled. Check back for rescheduled date.)
  • Reply to the Task Force online survey http://mitchelldomes.org/.

Respectfully,
Sally Sullivan
Executive Director
Friends of the Domes

Friends of the Mitchell Park DomesMilwaukee County Parks

Task Force Update

Concerns

  1. The Task Force has been directed to remain neutral and consider all options objectively, however, there is a clear bias on the part of some Task Force members, toward preservation to the exclusion of all other options.
  2. There has been aggressive lobbying by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and Save Our Domes group giving the false impression that this is also the agenda of the FOD. The FOD has pledged an open mind to all options during this process.
  3. Conclusions are being reached prior to finalization of the structural engineering studies which will determine if the structures can even be saved and at what cost.
  4. Focus groups are being asked to weigh in on options prematurely, and those options exclude a new Conservatory, which could in fact be the best option if the results of the engineering study conclude that saving the existing structures is not possible, reasonable or cost effective.
  5. Organizers of the focus groups did not invite anyone from the Conservatory staff or the FOD (the two groups with the most knowledge of and investment in the future of the Domes) to participate in the focus group discussions. Only when questioned multiple times about this, was an invitation extended to me, as FOD Executive Director, to attend one focus group, when other organizations will have a presence at all of them.
  6. There is no one on the Task Force representing horticulture, education or tourism – the three core missions of the Conservatory.
  7. Many on the Task Force have displayed a disturbing lack of knowledge on the Conservatory. Additionally, attendance by the local government representatives has been exceptionally poor.
  8. The focus has not stayed on how to best house the world-class $3.2 million plant collection. Instead the focus of the Task Force members is on saving the buildings at any cost, with consideration being given to re-purposing the buildings outside of a horticultural mission.

Despite all of the foregoing, there have been options put forth by members of the Task Force as listed. However, there are no details or timetables associated with these options. They are still at the point of speculation. None of these options allows for more than a 25-year life expectancy for the Domes or contemplates a new facility if the yet-to-be-performed engineering study shows repairs are not feasible or cost effective.

Options

Under Review

Here are the options being reviewed by the focus groups:

  • Option 1: Do Nothing – This option is assumed to lead to demolition of the Domes at some point in the upcoming years.
  • Option 2: Demolish Domes, Retain Greenhouses – the greatest percentage of what is grown in the greenhouses is for the Domes, making this investment obsolete. New uses would have to be found for the Greenhouses, and Milwaukee would lose its world-class plant collection.
  • Option 3: Only Address Deferred Maintenance – maintains 1965 status quo.
  • Option 4: Targeted Investments – addresses deferred maintenance and includes targeted investments: more education, meeting, and event space, visitor center, larger gift shop, cafe or restaurant, expanded parking, increased role for Friends of the Domes.
  • Option 5A: Eco Dome Destination Attraction – in addition to above targeted investments, Show Dome re-purposed into an Ecological Habitat Zone with canopy walks, aquariums, animals, outdoor children’s garden, expands outdoor gardens. Includes a new changing floral display area along with other added features in an expanded entry area. (Assumes addressing deferred maintenance for Desert and Tropical Domes.)
  • Option 5B: Adventure Dome Destination Attraction – Similar targeted investments as Option 5A but Show Dome re-purposed to themed adventure experience - canopy walks, zip lines, climbing structures. Includes a new changing floral display area along with other added features in an expanded entry area. (Assumes addressing deferred maintenance for Desert and Tropical Domes.)
  • Option 6A: Hybrid Redevelopment Eco Dome Destination Attraction – Raze the Show Dome and build new Eco Dome Destination attraction – with 50 year life span vs. 25 years for a repair option. Includes a new changing floral display area along with other added features in an expanded entry area. (Assumes addressing deferred maintenance for Desert and Tropical Domes.)
  • Option 6B: Hybrid Redevelopment Adventure Dome Destination Attraction - Create Adventure Dome destination attraction in location of razed Show Dome. Includes a new changing floral display area along with other added features in an expanded entry area. (Assumes addressing deferred maintenance for Desert and Tropical Domes.)