Tiffany’s celebration garden unveiled

By SpencerRoush

Tiffany & Co., the famous jeweler, has always been able to add a little high-end sparkle to wedding proposals, and now they can add to the celebration with the help of a new garden in Grant Park, with the Buckingham Fountain and Chicago’s skyline as its backdrop.

On Sept. 9, the Parkways Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises private funds for the Chicago Park District, unveiled their newest endeavor to restore the old rose garden in Grant Park into a formal garden available all year for special events. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, the charitable arm of Tiffany which gives money to non-profit sectors working mainly in the arts or the environment, funded the garden with a $1.25 million grant.

Fernanda Kellogg, the president of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, said the Grant Park project involved both the arts, environment and location, which is why this project was chosen.

“Chicago is a very key market and growing market for Tiffany & Company and the foundation always looks to support what’s important to the company,” Kellogg said. “Grant Park is absolutely iconic as the most important park in Chicago.”

“This is the largest grant ever given to the foundation,” said Brenda Palmer, executive director of the Parkways Foundation.

Located in the center of garden is a medallion made of Radiant Red and Kenoran Sage granite, engraved with the Tiffany Foundation’s name. There are also Roman numerals that indicate the longitude and latitude coordinates for the center of the garden.

“What [Tiffany’s] got out of the garden is giving back to the city that has given them a great deal,” said Adam Schwerner, the director of natural resources for the Chicago Park District. “Their charitable organization is separate from the store and when we were talking about this garden, they didn’t require us to make a big splash with their name at all. They did this garden because they wanted to give back.”

Palmer said with this kind of functioning, formal garden joins in the great legacy of all of the other philanthropic gifts donated to parks all over the city.

Schwerner said the Parkways Foundation decided to convert the mediocre rose garden into a more functional and attractive park space after the restoration of Buckingham Fountain was complete.

“With our new fountain restoration, it deserves to be supported by something beautiful and wonderful and there is no place within the Park District where events spaces like this occur,” said Schwerner. “This is a fabulous place for a wedding or a bar mitzvah or a Sweet 16—any kind of event really.”

Palmer said the garden is a self-sustaining project because all of the revenue that the garden takes in from weddings and other special events will be invested into a fund to keep up the ongoing annual maintenance, which also includes replacing the annual flowers every in Grant Park year. Out of the $1.25 million grant money, one year of maintenance is included in the upkeep of the garden.

Schwerner said finding potential renters for the space won’t be difficult and Parkways expects the event dates to fill up fast. He said on opening day there were already many people interested in renting the space.

“In terms of renting space around the city for weddings, we definitely wanted to be sure that it was in price range that was manageable for a most,” Palmer said.

Palmer said the cost of renting the space for a wedding ceremony would be about $750 and approximately $4,500 for full day’s use of the garden.

“We had our first daring bride book her wedding before any of the plants were in,” Palmer said.  “She just saw the plans.”Her mother is actually on the board of directors. And, she took the first plunge and booked her wedding for July  2010 without even seeing [the finished garden].”