Seattle budget's Green House effect

Options for saving the Volunteer Park Conservatory are to be unveiled at a public meeting.

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Volunteer Park Conservatory

Options for saving the Volunteer Park Conservatory are to be unveiled at a public meeting.

The warmest winter getaway in Seattle is in jeopardy: The 100-year-old Volunteer Park Conservatory. Due to tight budgets, the city is re-looking at the historic green house's budget, and has said it might have to close the facility as soon as January 2013. Last month, the Seattle Times carried a doomy headline, "End of the Road for the Volunteer Park Conservatory?"

According to the Times, the "greenhouse costs about $450,000 a year to operate and brings in about $25,000 in revenue, Seattle Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Dewey Potter said. It also needs about $3.5 million in repairs ... " Some worry that the green house is doomed.

A key meeting about the conservatory's future is coming up. The city has hired a consultant to report on possible new business models for the facility. His findings will be presented at a public meeting March 7 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Montlake Community Center.

Seattle's is not the first historic Northwest conservatory threatened with closure recently. In 2009, a similar budget situation threatened closure of Vancouver's Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. That also came on a major anniversary (its 40th). The city and conservatory lovers rallied and it was saved in 2010.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory only asks a $3 donation at the door, not mandatory. If all adult visitors paid that fee, it would raise roughly one half of needed operating revenues, according to one estimate. Most of the conservatory has already been renovated, but one last wing awaits refurbishing for, as the Times reported, something over $3 million.

The Conservatory is a city treasure, not to mention a wet-season oasis. Hopefully, its fans will rally to the cause.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.