LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Work is underway to turn an old landfill site into the Waterfront Botanical Gardens.

Crews started clearing the area off Frankfort Avenue and River Road on Monday.

"The bulldozers are taking out the brush now," said Kasey Maier, Executive Director of the Waterfront Botanical Gardens "They'll be saving the trees that we want to save. And it's good news, because we'll be planting over 1,000 trees."

After workers remove the brush and debris, they'll begin preparing the site for utilities and building a road and a pathway from the site to Beargrass Creek. Construction on the first building is expected to start early next year.

The master plan is for the $63 million project to be built in three phases. 

"It's all about education," Maier said about the project. "And not just plant education. It's environmental education. It's about the health of our soil. The health of our air. The health of our water. What do plants have to do with all of that? And our health."

About $7 million has been raised for the $10 million first phase, which will include a family education center and a 250-person event space. There will be a Beargrass Creek pathway and overlook along with education gardens and a pollinator meadow. There will also be three smaller education buildings in the first phase to be used as a classroom, greenhouse and workshop. 

"It's definitely a tourist attraction," Maier said. "But it's really for us, you and me and those of us who live here, increasing our quality of life and educational opportunities. But it will attract visitors."

Future phases will include a main entrance south of the Heigold Facade and a bike and pedestrian path will connect the Butchertown Greenway and Beargrass Creek. The visitors center will include a restaurant, event lawn and a water filtration garden. 

The first phase is expected to open by the spring of 2019. Once the Waterfront Botanical Gardens are finished in 2019, organizers hope to attract 100,000 visitors per year. Twenty percent of those visitors are expected to come from out of state.

"We did a feasibility study several years ago that told us if people come to this area for another reason, like a conference or a soccer game at the new stadium ... they'll stay a day and a half longer if there's a botanical garden," Maier said.

"In my opinion, this project and the soccer stadium are changing Butchertown. It's going to be an amazing place to live."

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