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Botanic Garden breaks ground on new Green Ark complex

20:39 20/03/2019

As part of the next phase of the total €103 million overhaul of the Meise Botanic Garden, ground was broken this week on the new complex of greenhouses as well as two new entrance buildings. Flemish tourism minister Ben Weyts and innovation ministry representative Eric Sleeckx offered a symbolic first cut of the spade.

The Botanic Garden was first founded in Brussels in the late 18th century. Due to space constraints, it moved to Meise in the 1930s.

It was previously a federal institution, but, as it was located in Flanders, there were long-standing arguments over who was financially responsible for upkeep of the infrastructure. As a result, much of the buildings fell into disrepair.

In 2014, an agreement was reached between the federal and Flemish governments, and Flanders took over the attraction, producing a Master Plan. In 2017, a new Plant Palace opened, which houses 10,000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants. Next up is a new 7,100 square-metre greenhouse complex called the Green Ark and two new entryways.

Top tourist attraction

All works to the garden – located in Meise, Flemish Brabant, in the area known as the Flemish periphery of Brussels – should be completed by 2026. It will then be considered a top tourist attraction for the region, as well as a world reference point for horticultural science.

“We are turning the Botanic Garden into a world-class visitor attraction,” said Weyts. “Just a few years ago, our beautiful Botanic Garden was languishing as a neglected federal institution. Now Flanders is giving the garden a new future. This is more than ever a pearl of the Flemish periphery.”

The garden has two entrances, where visitors buy tickets at a window. A new main entrance is planned that will include a square and a foyer, with a gift shop, toilets and offices for staff. The second entry will also get an entirely new building, with a smaller gift shop and toilets. A tram stop is planned for outside this second entryway.

The Green Ark will be made up of a new series of greenhouses that will join the existing series. It will have a space for public presentations and workshops. The garden’s greenhouses are home to some 9,000 plant species, many of them endangered. One of the existing buildings will be renovated for the use of researchers.

All the works in the Botanic Garden are carried out in consultation with the government agencies responsible for heritage and forests. “The Meise Botanic Garden is a hidden scientific gem,” said Muyters. “Thanks to these investments, it will be able to continue in its national and international role in the protection of plant species.”

Photo: Minister Ben Weyts, innovation adviser Eric Sleeckx and contractor Bob Van Poppel break ground at the Meise Botanic Garden

Written by Flanders Today