ENCINITAS — San Diego Botanic Garden would like to build an ambitious pavilion that’s a hub for community education and events, it announced at its annual membership meeting on Jan. 25.
The 9,300-square-foot pavilion, complete with classrooms, an amphitheater and a kitchen, would hold 400 people.
Tracie Barham, director of development with the Botanic Garden, said most of the 37-acre property is made up of outdoor plants and flowers. Yet, it also boasts an indoor meeting space that often hosts well-known speakers and other activities.
“The space has served us well, but it’s often bursting at the seams,” Barham said, noting its capacity is 100 people. That sometimes resulted in having to turn people away.
The Botanic Garden had 203,000 visitors last year, an increase of more than 83 percent from a decade ago.
“To accommodate more people and diverse interests, we want a larger community meeting spot,” she said.
She said the pavilion could feature an array of educational classes — with cooking and catering being key ones.
“That’s one area we’re excited about,” Barham said. “Locally grown food, the slow food movement — those things are really at the forefront of the public’s mind.
“Right next to where the pavilion would go, we have edible plants growing right now,” she added. “We could actually walk right out there, grab some plants, bring it in the kitchen and do something with it.”
The space would also likely feature seminars on topics like gardening with children and conservation.
To provide an open atmosphere, the pavilion’s main hall would be made of retractable glass. Plans call for placing the new facility just north of Hamilton Children’s Garden.
“It could also be closed up if the weather isn’t great,” Barham said.
As part of the pavilion’s meeting space, there would be a botanical exhibit with plants that might not thrive in San Diego’s outdoor climate. Plus, an amphitheater would play host to concerts and plays.
Barham noted that Encinitas Union School District officials have expressed excitement about the pavilion. That’s because the district is currently at work on a 10-acre educational farm across from the Botanic Garden.
“They’ve said they would love to take advantage of the space,” Barham said. “And we’re looking at not just having a space that they can come into, but how we can work together to provide programming.”
She added that there’s also opportunity for collaboration with the neighboring San Dieguito Heritage Museum and Leichtag Foundation related to the pavilion.
The Botanic Garden is holding a fundraising challenge in hopes of garnering financial support for the $4 million project.
The Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Foundation has tentatively pledged $1 million toward the facility. To earn the gift, the Botanic Garden must raise the remaining $3 million from private philanthropy and grants by the end of this year.
Once the funds are raised, construction would likely take about a year to complete.