When visitors walk or drive on Three-Mile Drive near the Chinese Garden, they may notice a handsome new building in the distance. It’s the McQuinn Horticulture and Operations Headquarters, an almost 12,000-square-foot edifice that will house the horticulture, curatorial and gardening staffs.
“It is a work environment that a No. 1 botanical garden deserves,” said Director of Operations Alan Branhagen, who oversaw the project. “They will all be housed in one facility where they can collaborate and be more productive,” he added.
He was shocked when he interviewed at the Arb over three years ago and saw that the maintenance building was just a pole shed with a garage door on one side. The gardener’s head house next door to it was an outdated, cramped, dark space without adequate offices, break and work areas.
Major upgrades in the new structure include the maintenance shop, which has drive-through bays so that the largest equipment (our beautiful new tram) can drive through and be serviced under shelter in a heated/tempered space). In the past, the maintenance crew has worked out in the rain and cold to get needed work done.
The large, improved break room with kitchenette will be a multi-purpose area that can be used after hours for classes and can hold the 60 gardeners and seasonal employees on site during peak season. A new paved parking lot has space for both staff and volunteers. A new locker room gives space for everyone to store their belongings.
A new, modern upgraded center like this one always has its angels. In this case, Al and Mary Agnes McQuinn, longtime Arboretum donors, provided the McQuinn Challenge, where many donors gave to the project and those gifts were matched by the couple. “At last, it’s time they have a home!” Mary Agnes McQuinn said, adding that she and her husband understood it was important that Arboretum staff had a space dedicated to them, their equipment and their work.
The building was 100 percent privately funded. The Arboretum Development Department met its goal to build this wonderful improvement to the grounds and the future of the Arboretum. It was designed by DLR of Minneapolis and built by PCL Construction.
Branhagen gives kudos to Arboretum Director Pete Moe for his unsung efforts to keep this as a priority project, get Arboretum Board of Trustees and University of Minnesota Board of Regents to approve the capital project, as well as lead in the successful fundraising efforts.
A tour of the new building (which is closed to the public) shows natural light streaming into the building, improving worker well-being. There is a huge monitor that can be used to review work plans, safety and other trainings. New plan tables give space to work on projects and garden plans.
“I expect this facility to boost horticulture, curatorial staff and mechanic employee engagement, productivity and inspire more collaboration. Mechanics will be right there to keep equipment operating,” Branhagen said. “It’s a wonderful and needed improvement for the entire Arboretum. Thank you to donors and everyone associated with the project,” he said.