The Garden Room at the National Aviary is a new place for people to gather and celebrate, but it’s really for the birds.

The 9,000-square-foot, year-round event space is available to rent for weddings, corporate functions and parties, providing the North Side institution — which was hit hard by the pandemic — with a steady stream of income.

“This new space opens up opportunities for programs that enable physical distancing, including Brunch in the Garden and Holidays in the Garden, says Molly Toth, the Aviary’s communication specialist. “And rentals for special events in this space set us on a path for growth and success well into the future,” she adds.

The building at 700 Arch Street is made of wood, masonry and 2,700 square feet of Vitro Architectural Glass, which employs a bird-safe pattern to help prevent window strikes by wild, winged creatures. Other sustainability features include an on-site stormwater management system and light-refracting skylights that provide natural lighting and heating.

Photo courtesy of the National Aviary.

The large, energy-efficient windows and doors open onto a terrace overlooking Allegheny Commons Park. The Charity Randall Foundation Eagle Hall, named in recognition of a generous funder, provides a connection between The Garden Room and the Aviary’s 550 feathered residents.

The main room can accommodate up to 200 guests for seated dining service. There are two fireplaces, ADA-accessible restrooms and an industrial kitchen with walk-in refrigeration for Atria’s Specialty Catering, the exclusive caterer of the National Aviary and a sponsor of The Garden Room.

“That revenue is so important to helping us continue providing our animals with uncompromised care,” Toth says. “Philanthropy is critical in our new operational model.”

The project team was led by architects Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel and contractor Jendoco Construction Corporation.

Every Sunday from Oct. 25 through Dec. 13, the National Aviary will offer Brunch in the Garden with enhanced safety protocols, including physically distanced seating and mask requirements. The Garden Room also will host Holidays in the Garden between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the Aviary will be open late for guests to enjoy a festive light display and explore tropical habitats.

Funds for the $4 million project were years in the making and raised before the pandemic. The Aviary broke ground on The Garden Room last December and construction began immediately.

In other aviary news, two Guam Kingfishers — a species that is extinct in the wild — hatched during the pandemic, providing a much-needed bright spot during a difficult time. Their arrival, Toth says, drives home the importance of the Aviary’s work to save endangered species.

The Aviary is closed on Tuesdays but operates every other day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.