Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland joined local dignitaries and Civic Garden Center staff for the groundbreaking of its new Green Learning Station during a Friday evening ceremony in Avondale.
The $1.2 million project will convert a former SOHIO gas station at into a "sustainability demonstration project", educating and inspiring students, home builders, developers, public officials, and the general public about sustainable practices by demonstrating green systems and technologies that are affordable and can be accomplished at home. A strong focus will be placed on sustainable gardening, from the use of native plants to composting.
"I think that's pretty exciting, because this is like the ultimate in recycling projects," said Vickie Ciotti, executive director of the Civic Garden Center.
The center acquired the property in 1987 and has been using it for parking and storage. Since 2007, it has been planning the project and raising money through a $2 million capital campaign.
"I wondered at the time, as we got into this bad economy, whether or not you would be able to go forth with it," Strickland said. "But you're kind of like that daffodil or that dandelion that comes up through that newly-paved driveway. Nothing was going to stop you. This is the kind of spirit that we need now."
The project builds on the Civic Garden enter's 60-year commitment to curriculum-based programs and public outreach by moving all of its sustainable living programming under one roof. It plans to pursue a LEED Gold rating by incorporating:
- Rain barrels, rain gardens, and bio swales;
- Permeable paving to deter storm water runoff;
- Several types of vegetative green roof, including one with enough soil to grow vegetables;
- Photovoltaic panels;
- Vertical gardens and garden demonstration sites; and
- Hundreds of monitoring stations to allow the public to interpret the impacts of sustainable systems, including a weather station, cameras, temperature and moisture sensors and flow meters networked into a data bank and off-site server.
"The data collected in this site makes the project one-of-a-kind in the EPA Region 5," Ciotti said. "That's really big news for us."
She credits Strickland for helping to make the project a reality.
"Since we started designing the Green Learning Station in 2007 – under a different name and a different focus – First Lady Strickland has been a vocal advocate for the project," Ciotti said. "She shares our commitment to making sure that children grow up loving the outdoors, receive a meaningful education, and understand the role they will play in preserving the quality of our environment."
"I love the fact that you're dedicating a large part of this to children, because it's very clear to me, as I go around, that the children are the ones talking the language of tomorrow," Strickland said. "You could get worried about how stuck we are sometimes in our own ways, until you get with not only the youngest children, but also our college students. They very much get this, and they're very much for it."
HGC Construction will build the project. The firm recently won a National Pyramid Award for Excellence in Construction for its LEED Platinum Vine Street Village project at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and also achieved LEED Silver certification for the Lofts of Mottainai in Over-the-Rhine.
SFA Architects and Martin Koepke Design are the project architects.
Completion is scheduled for late October.