Eight years after being flooded and damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the Audubon Nature Institute is embarking on an $8.5 million project to reconstruct facilities at the Nature Center.
Steve Dorand, senior vice president of design for the Audubon Nature Institute, says the new facility will span approximately 13,000 sq-ft in three adjacent and connected buildings. It will include classrooms, a planetarium and an 8,500-sq-ft exhibit pavilion.
Audubon is working with local architect Billes Partners to rebuild a facility that is more functional for visitors and has more sustainable and environmentally friendly features.
“It will be more operationally functional and offer a more comfortable experience for guests. We're hoping to attain LEED silver certification, which will be the first for an Audubon facility,” says Dorand.
The project will also include repairing and rebuilding a mile of elevated boardwalk trail on the 86-acre site. A glass and steel greenhouse will also be repaired using the existing frame.
Kyle McGehee, director of architectural design for the Audubon Nature Institute, says the facility itself is also being moved closer to Lake Forest Blvd. and Joe Brown Park. This will make it easier to accommodate bus drop-off and to abide by American Disability Association rules, which weren't in place when the original center was constructed in the 1970s.
Demolition of the existing facilities on the property has just been completed. Dorand says they're waiting for final permitting from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) at which point they'll call for bids on the 14-month project. Audubon is aiming for a grand opening of the first phase in 2015.
“It's all based on final permitting right now. It has been a long process with the city and state but we're expecting to [get it out for bids] soon,” says Dorand.