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Monday, May 20, 2024

New ‘living’ sustainable visitor center to be built in UW-Madison Lakeshore Preserve

Funds for the center come from longtime Madison donor Jerry Frautschi to support education and access in the community.

The Lakeshore Nature Preserve will build a sustainable visitor center as a “front door” to Picnic Point with the use of a $14.3 million gift from longtime Madison philanthropist Jerry Frautschi.

The Lakeshore Nature Preserve Frautschi Center will increase access to Lake Mendota’s 300-acre natural preserve, support hands-on learning for more than 25 University of Wisconsin-Madison academic programs and serve as a center for environmental education in the community.

It will be the state’s first “living building” and the first net-positive energy building on campus, meaning it generates its own energy and will produce more energy than it consumes. This comes after Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin announced new sustainability goals earlier this month, including 100% renewable electricity on campus by 2030.

“We are fortunate to have such beautiful natural spaces on campus for recreation, research and education,” Mnookin said in a Feb. 9 press release. “We are exceptionally fortunate for Jerry and his family’s generosity and their commitment to creating this welcoming, accessible and sustainable space for our students, employees and visitors.”

Staff of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which has faced staffing shortages, previously said they would prefer “gifts and donations be used, as they are elsewhere on campus, to enhance and supplement institutional support.”

“It is too early in the planning stage for us to know future staffing needs [for the new building],” said Lori Wilson, marketing & communications director of UW-Madison Division of Facilities Planning & Management.

UW-Madison is also launching a $5 million fundraising effort to support operations and continued sustainability.

“The university has limited funding to allocate across campus,” Wilson said. “The UW-Madison operations budget [supports] the preserve's administrative budget.”

The center will be an “interpretive space” to learn about the work happening in the preserve and celebrate its history, according to interim preserve director Laura Wyatt.

Previously, preserve employees' tools and equipment were dispersed across the campus at six different locations. The new 9,000-square-foot center will be a single location for work and storage. 

It will provide safer pedestrian crossing and entry to the parking lot on University Bay Ave, an upper-level deck for viewing and a relocated B-Cycle station.

In addition to being net-positive, the center will use sustainable materials and practices to reduce energy use and waste. The center will have a green roof, be built of recycled and upcycled materials, and reuse stormwater to reduce runoff.

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The Frautschi Center aims to respect the Ho-Chunk Nation’s ancestral land by increasing land care practices in culturally significant areas, preserving burial mounds and providing signage for culturally significant plans, according to a press release. 

Electricity use will be reduced through geothermal heating and cooling, passive ventilation and daylighting, which uses natural lighting like skylights to minimize artificial lighting.

"UW-Madison is a steward of a huge range of land resources, research stations, buildings and properties," said Paul Robbins, dean of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. “A new center will create opportunities for community engagement and public education.” 

Frautschi family members have been longtime supporters of UW-Madison and its acquisition of Lakeshore Nature Preserve. 

Frautschi, a UW-Madison alum, and his brother purchased “Second Point,” a parcel along Mendota’s shoreline including Picnic Point, for $1.5 million in 1988 to protect it from development.

The brothers gifted it to their father and renamed it “Frautschi’s Point” before donating it to UW-Madison to ensure continued protection. The land came with funds to create a permanent endowment, all for the purpose of preserving natural ecosystems.

“My family has lived in Madison since the 1800s, and we feel a great sense of responsibility to give back to the city and community that we love,” Frautschi said in a press release. “I am pleased that I am able to carry on my family’s tradition of philanthropy and community.”

Construction on the facility will begin in 2025, and the center is set to open in 2026.

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Mary Bosch

Mary Bosch is the Photo Editor for The Daily Cardinal and a first year Journalism student. She has also written campus, state and city news. Follow her on twitter: @Mary_Bosch6

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