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Sunday, December 21, 2014 | Last updated: 7:19pm


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Bio-dreams




greenhouse_dome


As the evening sunlight was replaced by the luminescent glow of lanterns, Lansing resident Taylor Taylor performed her soft folk songs on the patio of Dublin Square on Abbot Road. 

This wasn’t a usual concert for the Okemos High School senior and her band — this was the second concert held at Dublin Square to raise money and awareness for a cause nearly 20 years in the making. 

Taylor's performance was a benefit concert for the Student Greenhouse Project of MSU, a campaign for a new biodome to replace the Old Botany Greenhouse and Butterfly House, which were razed in 1997.

“They asked me to perform because I was referred to them from someone, so they asked me to do it,” Taylor said. “I just brought my band to come here and play with me. It's an awesome project, what they're trying to do. ... It'd just be a really cool atmosphere to be a part of, it'll be great when they get the thing up.”

The concert cost $8 to get in the door, and a donation jar was also available in case patrons wanted to leave something extra for the project. Pamphlets were handed out, and a bulletin board detailing the project was displayed inside the restaurant for everyone to see.   

Jeff Herzog, the community liaison for the Student Greenhouse Project, said the concert was more about raising awareness for their cause than raising funds. With the hope of rallying more student and community support for the project, members will continue to hold events informing the public of this dream for an old haven's revival.  

A betrayal of trust

Phillip Lamoureux, the director of the project and an MSU research assistant, said when the final ruling of the closure of the Botany Greenhouse was decided upon, he felt as if trusts were betrayed.

However, it wasn’t so much the community’s trust that was betrayed — in his eyes, it was the plants’ trust that was broken.

When it was decided the greenhouse would be torn down because of its age and the high cost of renovations, it was promised 80 percent of the plant varieties would be saved. Instead, Lamoureux said, the opposite happened.

Because no one could rally people to move and store the plants, four dumpsters were filled with the various plant life, which added up to about 80 percent of the plants being destroyed, he said.

“We brought plants from all over the world,” Lamoureux said. “Old plants, rare plants, new plants. ... I felt we had an implicit covenant with these living creatures we had taken from (their) homes to at least give them life."  

The 22,000-square-foot Botany Greenhouse featured five different environments, including the 900-square-foot Butterfly House. Tree frogs, a vivid variety of tropical plants and even an iguana had made the different environments' streams, ponds and plant life their home.

Students were able to spend their time in a study area and an entertainment space where they could gather together to listen to poetry readings and acoustic melodies. Sparrow Hospital used the facility to hold "health walks" for their patients who struggled with heart issues, giving them an opportunity to breathe in the greenhouse's warm, fresh air. 

After it was decided the greenhouse would be razed in 1997, the community rallied together and, with the approval of the university and ASMSU, moved forward with the Student Greenhouse Project of MSU. 

Two design contests and various community surveys later, Steven Kokotovich, the student president of the project and a chemistry junior, said they are now in the feasibility stage. 

After more fundraising and community engagement, Kokotovich's hope is that the Board of Trustees will approve the project and set aside $5 million to get construction and plant deliveries on the way.  

Kokotovich said the project will be ready whenever the board says it needs to be, although, he added, everything could be constructed within a summer. 

A legacy to be left behind

Yang Song, the vice president of the project and an MSU alumnus, said the completion of the project to him meant leaving behind a legacy.

"I just want to build something," he said. "When I have my kids and bring them to MSU, I will show them the dome and say, ‘look, that’s what I built; that’s my contribution to the campus.’ And all the kids will have access to the (different types of) nature right on their campus."

The proposed biodome will be located near Abrams Planetarium between Shaw Hall and Farm Lane, with a dome 150 feet in diameter and 75 feet tall. 

Inside the tiodome, visitors will find more than 17,600 square feet of a tropical valley. Various paths will lead visitors to waterfalls as birds fly overhead and lizards watch them from the trees. 

The tropical plants, study lounge and entertainment area will also be revived, and a stone cliff will act as a sound backdrop for different plays and concerts. The study lounge will feature wireless Internet for students who want to take a warm break in between their busy class schedules. 

Every feature, including the waterfall and canyon, will be weelchair accessible.

Kokotovich, said the rock will absorb the heat of the sun and radiate it throughout the day. Even after the sun goes down, the dome will feel like a 75-degree tropical forest, even if a 15-degree Michigan winter is raging outside. 

"We want to have that same entertainment space in the new greenhouse," Herzog said. "We'll have the same theater, music, poetry, (along with) grad student's performances and presentations. We'll want to have weddings. ... We want this to be sustainable. It'll be free for students during the week and self-supporting. It won't be a drain on the university's funds." 

How to help

Those who support the Student Greenhouse Project of MSU can find a link to donate to the cause on their website. Herzog also said there will be more fundraisers like the Taylor Taylor concert in the near future.

The soonest upcoming fundraiser is the Dome Roam 5K Fun Run/Walk/Roll on October 12. Open meetings will also be held during the school year with a tentative time of 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday in Berkey Hall. 

"Just come to meetings, donate, come out to events or even help plan the events," Kokotovich said. "All help is good, and everyone is welcome."


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