As plans progress for Wooster campus facilities renovation and new construction, the campus has faced difficult decisions about facilities that will not be renovated, such as the ATI conservatory.
The conservatory was initially built in 1926 and donated to the institute in the 1970s. It was deconstructed on its original site in Mansfield, moved to Wooster and reconstructed on its present site. On May 26, 2017, personnel from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Campus Public Safety Department performed a safety inspection of the ATI Conservatory. Despite routine structural maintenance, it was found that deterioration of the nearly century-old wooden elements had caused significant weakening of the structure. Glass slippage created cracks and openings that exposed plants to harsh environmental conditions. Due to the deterioration of the structure and the potential hazard of falling glass, the conservatory was closed to students and the public.
The collection of plants from the conservatory is currently in another greenhouse on the Wooster campus and still accessible for classes.
The college also hired licensed design professionals and greenhouse consultants to provide recommendations. It was determined that ATI could not feasibly repair the conservatory with like materials while meeting state building codes and University requirements. To replace the conservatory with contemporary materials (i.e., aluminum structure) that would look similar to the existing structure and infrastructure to support the facility was estimated to cost $3.5-5 million.
"We understand and appreciate the special place that the conservatory holds in the hearts of many students, faculty, staff, alumni and citizens. Many have fond memories of studying or teaching in the space," said ATI Director Kristina Boone. "It served us well for many years. However, once we investigated the cost for replacement, along with the conservatory's role in the mission of ATI, the campus and CFAES, it was decided that it just was not feasible to repair the facility. The decision was made to apply that money to other priorities for the Wooster campus. We are looking for future investments to provide even better facilities and programs for our students."
The Wooster campus is developing a strategic plan and will be undergoing a master planning activity this summer that will give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to suggest future uses of the conservatory site. While a major focus is to refresh Wooster campus infrastructure, the strategic planning committee is also working to identify a new focal point for the campus as part of the master plan -- one that horticulture students can engage in creating and maintaining. The plan also includes upgrades like walking paths to better connect campus areas and make the campus a more engaging place for all.
For more information:
Dr. Kristina Boone