Omaha's Lauritzen Gardens plans $20M greenhouse

April 25, 2013

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Omaha's Lauritzen Gardens botanical center is raising $31.5 million to build a new greenhouse and gallery structure to showcase tropical plants and serve more visitors.

The $20 million conservatory was announced Thursday. The tourist attraction also plans to raise $10 million for an endowment to support the conservatory and $1.5 million for new signs directing people to the gardens near where Interstate 80 crosses the Missouri River.

The glass structure that's slated to be complete by November 2014 will be visible from I-80 because it will be built atop a hill.

Executive director Spencer Crews says the new facility will make it easier for people who live in the region to learn about tropical plants without travelling far.

The new conservatory will be separated into 10,000 square feet of tropical plants, a 5,300-square-foot greenhouse of temperate plants and a 2,000-square-foot gallery section that will be used for different displays and events.

Randy Blackburn, president of Lauritzen Gardens' board, said the new conservatory will improve the garden and help it educate people.

"Lauritzen Gardens is already a treasured attraction for Omaha and the new conservatory is an extraordinary and beautiful gift to the Omaha community," Blackburn said.

The biggest gift for the conservatory came from the foundation set up by the late founder of Valmont Industries, Robert Daugherty, but officials wouldn't say how much the foundation gave. The project will be named for his late wife Marjorie Daugherty, who was an avid gardener.