News: Miami Beach Botanical Garden Undergoing a Face Lift

By John E Zur

 The Miami Beach Botanical Garden, located across the street from the Miami Beach Convention Center, has announced that it will be undergoing a 1.2 million-dollar landscape renovation project designed by acclaimed South Florida landscape architect Raymond Jungles and executed by Harbour Construction of Miami.

Says Harbour project manager Guy Lesseur, “Harbour Construction is both proud and excited to take part in what is sure to be a wonderful rejuvenation of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Bringing the City of Miami Beach Botanical Garden’s and Raymond Jungles’ vision to life represents an exciting challenge to us and one that we embrace.”

Originally created in 1962 – when nobody talked about urban greenspace, LEED, recycling, or zeriscaping – as a City park and home to private garden clubs, it became an active community venue in 1997 when the Miami Beach Garden Conservancy entered into an agreement with the City to manage the site as a Botanical Garden with free admission, arts and cultural programming, and venue for weddings, social, and corporate events.

Executive director of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Laura Jaimeson, described the design architect selection process. “The City put out a request for qualifications and received more than a half-dozen responses. Firms made presentations to a selection committee formed by the City. Proposals were ranked on experience with botanical gardens, design elements, and various criteria before Raymond Jungles, Inc. was selected.”

Jungles’ landscape design has significant enhancements that include creating a distinctive entrance plaza, removing extensive concrete pathways and brick pillars, relocating existing palms and shade trees, and bringing a greater variety of native trees and plants into the scene. Jungles says that what he values most in a public garden is space – gathering space, space for contemplation, intimate space, public space, durability, and timelessness.

“One of our primary goals was to activate and use every available part of the 2.6 acre site,” he says. “Water is a vital element of my gardens, particularly in a botanical garden, where water plants can aid in increased botanical diversity while creating open space. A large water garden has been designed which will bring the sky into the garden, animate the space, and reflect the landscape,” says Jungles. “Water gardens will cool the areas directly around the buildings and also magnify the Garden’s sense of scale.

“Shade is important as well as overall cohesiveness of the design and horticultural elements. When the garden is complete, it will be very easy and enticing to circulate around the entire space without the restrictive fences that now exist.”

As “the only public garden on Miami Beach, we are committed to remaining free to the public with no admission charge and offering free lectures, workshops, environmental education, as well as arts and cultural programming,” says Laura Jaimeson.

“While constrained by a very low budget, we decided to make the most of what is already there in plants, hardscape and buildings. Our design creates a variety of spaces with their own character, impact and sense of place. Several events can happen at the same time but also give garden visitors more choices,” says Jungles.

Long cement walkways and brick pillars will be removed. Pathways will meander throughout the site with benches and artwork creating intrigue. A new covered Banyan Room terrace will more than double the capacity for events. A nursery growing and propagation area will be separate from the main building.

Moving the main entrance to the southeast corner will create a new sense of entry. It will be processional and offer multiple experiences. “We have designed a very long site line when you first enter the garden that will magnify the scale of what is presently there. There will be a larger green open space or grand lawn allowing flexibility of events,” says Jungles. “Water is a vital element of my gardens, particularly in a botanical garden, where water plants can aid in increased botanical diversity while creating open space. A large water garden has been designed which will bring the sky into the garden, animate the space, and reflect the landscape. Water gardens will cool the areas directly around the buildings and also magnify the Garden’s sense of scale.

The design will be implemented in three phases. Says Jungles, “Unfortunately, the final phase along Collins Canal is not funded at this time. Incorporating the canal would be wonderful for the garden. We also want to complete our redesign before the proposed expansion of the convention center that would encircle our Garden.”

Jungles notes that compared with his designs for other public and private gardens, “this is a very small botanical garden, really an urban green space, with significant botanical richness, as well as educational programming and multiple events. The diminutive scale of the garden and its budget were two things that definitely caught my attention. It will be a little gem, the best it can be, in a wonderful location. It will be a wonderful addition to Miami Beach’s green public spaces.”

The renovation is being funded by the City of Miami Beach Capital Improvements funding – part of the General Obligation Bond passed by City voters in 1997 – and administered by the City’s Capital Improvements Project (CIP) Office. Funds are allocated for landscape renovation, not construction of new buildings. The renovation program begins June 6th and is scheduled for completion by late fall. During this period, public access to the Botanical Garden’s 2.6 acres will be restricted and all arts and education programs and community activities have been cancelled.

The Botanical Garden’s public goal remains the same. Says Jaimeson, “Our mission (is) to provide free public access to an attractive Botanical Garden, create environmental and ecological education programs for children and adults, preserve green space, promote green living, and serve as a venue for visual and performing arts and a tourism destination.”

Because of the size of the Garden, the City chose to do the renovations during the summer, or low season, when fewer visitors are touring Miami Beach and there are fewer events that take place. The City preferred to undertake the full project at one time rather than working on it section by section. There is an aggressive construction schedule in place so that work is completed in October and the Garden resumes full programming for events such as Sleepless Night, Art Basel, South Beach Wine and Food Festival, and Taste of the Garden.

Miami Beach Botanical Garden is owned by the City of Miami Beach and operated by the Miami Beach Garden Conservancy. For updates on the renovation program, go here:

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