By Mrinal Gokhale
The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, or the “Three Domes” have been under the public eye a lot during the past year.
From a temporary closing in February to the official grand reopening this past December, Milwaukee area residents are left wondering “where do we go from here?” regarding the landmark’s future. The answer is still up for debate, but there are six options.
On Wed, Jan 4, the Milwaukee County Force met in the Domes lobby (524 S. Lapham Blvd) to watch a presentation done by GRAEF, an architectural firm that provides consulting services to Milwaukee County.
The first speaker, Eileen Hankes, said she worked a lot with the structural aspects of the building. She helped inspect work being done during repairs back in February when some concrete fell from the walls. Following the domes closing, the problem was temporarily solved by installing wire mesh.
“The window system had cracked glass panes, and the concrete frames will deteriorate over time,” Hankes said.
“Getting access to the interior was hard, and the outside border requires a crane for pane replacement.”
She said that the options for replacing or repairing the structure were estimated based upon a 2008 study used to estimate costs to repair the Show Dome.
Larry Witzling, one of the speakers, detailed six options with their estimated costs.
“The first option is replacing the broken glass, which will cost about $14 million,” Witzling said. This option was the cheapest shown in the presentation.
On the other hand, Option R, which he called “Option Replacement,” means replacing the structure with a more durable precast concrete for an estimated $64 million dollars. Witzling admitted Option R “may not be the best way to generate earned revenue and support from the public.”
The other options with estimated costs presented were:
Option 2: Replace all glass panes within the structure for $38 million dollars
Option 3: Replace aluminum and glass façade for $47 million dollars
Option 4: Construct self supporting aluminum and glass façade for $54 million dollars
Option 5: Replace conidial façade with aluminum and glass geodesic dome for $50 million
Tanya Fonseca presented last and read a slide stating their four long term goals:
1. Addressing strengths and weaknesses of the structure and functionality
2. Expanding programs and events to boost associated earned revenue
3. Developing an organizational structure to enhance earned revenue and donations, expand programs and staff capacity and ensure public accountability
4. Creating a combined facility that serves as a valued community wide cultural asset in the community.
“We are looking for more input from the community,” Fonseca said.
The Milwaukee County Task Force will hold a meeting in the coming months regarding a plan to get public input regarding these six options.