March 14, 2011

Plantations Welcome Center Opens

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In an effort to attract students and visitors to the Cornell Plantations, the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center opened in the heart of the botanical gardens in February. The center features a gift shop, café, conference rooms and an open-air atrium.

Plantations’ Marketing and Retail Coordinator Billy Kepner said the center will be a much-needed starting point for visitors to Ithaca, nature fans and Cornell students on their journey through the Plantations.

“A lot of students go for runs, walks and hikes on our trails, and they don’t even realize they are actually on the Plantations,” Kepner said. “The center is a really cool space for students to study and hang out while they’re here.”

“One of the things students don’t realize is how close we are to campus,” Kepner said. “The gardens are free to the public from dawn until dusk.”

Kepner said that most of the products in the café and gift shop are sustainable, made locally or created by alumni.

For instance, the café offers an assortment of baked goods and organic foods, as well as coffee from Ithaca-based Gimme! Coffee. The gift shop sells Native X scarves, a line of wool scarves produced by a current Cornell senior, as well as organic botanical hand crèmes, body lotions and lip balms manufactured by a Cornell graduate. Sustainable clothing items and potted plants from the Plantations’ own greenhouses are also available for purchase.

“About 99 percent of the product in the store is either local, sustainable or produced by alumni businesses,” Kepner said. “Everything is mission-related.”

The Plantations, which include botanical gardens, an arboretum, greenhouses and natural areas, are open to the public year-round during daylight, free of charge.

The building that houses the center, constructed by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, won the Canadian Architect’s 2010 Award of Excellence.

Boasting large windows for view of the Plantation’s living collections, it is designed to be environmentally friendly, according to Courtney Starzer ’11, marketing associate for the Plantations.

The Nevin Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will likely open seven days a week in the coming months. The center will close during spring break for further improvements.

Starzer is currently planning a campaign to encourage students to use more of the resources available at the Plantations.

“We want to get more students down here,” she said. “We’re in the beginning processes of advertising.”

Kepner said he believes the campaign will be successful.

“College is very stressful … this is a place where you can come and totally relax, reconnect with nature,” Kepner said. “When you need to just forget about where you are, the Plantations are nice to have.”

Original Author: Rebecca Harris