Selby Gardens Plan Will Continue To Evolve

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY OCT 7, 2019

After three days of public hearings before Sarasota’s Planning Board, executives at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens left with a narrowly-approved recommendation of approval for its master site plan.

Now, President and CEO Jennifer Rominiecki prepares for the big show, a hearing in front of Sarasota City Commissioners on Oct. 28. She said between now and then, the plan for the 15-acre site will continue to evolve.

“We received valuable input from the Planning Board and from the public hearing process that took place,” Rominiecki said. “Certainly we will be looking at what we are presenting to the City Commission, including additional enhancements based on what we learned.”

She can’t offer specific details yet; the team at Selby Gardens has barely had time to regroup since last week’s hearing that ran until midnight Wednesday.

Changes in coming weeks likely won’t slice down that tall structure, though, which Rominiecki said will allow Selby Gardens to park more visitors on less acreage, hopefully increasing visitation and revenue while expanding greenspace at the botanical gardens.

Notably, the three days of hearings included testimony from Hudson Crossings representatives interested in reaching a consensus on certain elements of the design. Attorney Robert Lincoln suggested at a hearing last month that a successful plan for Selby Gardens was better than the land being sold to a private developer for commercial use.

The long, public process for the master plan has at least generated publicity for the vision at Selby Gardens. Rominiecki said 5,200 citizens have now signed petitions favoring the project, even as many immediate neighbors voice deep concerns about a parking garage and restaurant fronting U.S. 41.

Rominiecki stressed that the structure, called a Sky Garage by Selby, will have solar arrays and greenery to make Selby Gardens the first energy net-positive botanical gardens campus anywhere. Stormwater improvements will also provide benefits beyond the gardens.

“We will make Sarasota an international model for environmental sustainability,” she said. “Some of these points get lost when everyone focuses on certain aspects to this project.”

Likewise, Rominiecki hopes in coming weeks more realize the plans boost the walkable garden space by 50 percent, including nearly 50,000 square feet of park area being made accessible to the public without an admissions ticket.

Rendering from Selby Gardens animatic.

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