Selby Gardens Outlines Bold Future



A master plan for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will revolutionize the destination for the future while preserving the past and safeguarding the present treasures at the site, according to executive director Jennifer Rominiecki. The three-phase plan will protect plant collections from sea level rise and create a new restaurant space overlooking Sarasota Bay, all the while increasing green space on the site by 50 percent. 

And the organization already has a solid head start on executing the vision. Selby leaders announced a $42.5-million capital campaign to pay for the first phase of the plan, and said some $21.8 million in gifts have already been committed to the project. Three long-time Selby Gardens champions—Pauline Wamsler, Cornelia Mason and Jean Weidner Goldstein—will lead the campaign, entitled: “Innovating a Greener Future—Living Inspiration for a Living Museum: The Campaign for Selby Gardens.”

Phase I plans include a new “Sky Garden” building, which will include parking but conceal it behind a towering living wall that showcases the botanical work researchers do on site. The new structure will also include a rooftop restaurant run by Michael’s on East, where chefs will make use of an edible garden. A new Jean Goldstein Welcome Center will open, and next to it will stand the Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center, containing a new herbarium, laboratory and research library.

Rominiecki said the new structures will protect an oft-overlooked asset of the Gardens, its extensive library of botanical books and research. And environmental protection on the site will also beef up. The gardens host the world’s best scientifically documented collection of orchids and bromeliads—and do so in a flood plain protected by aging infrastructure. Additionally, the improvements will better protect the old Marie Selby residency.

“The fact these collections are in harm’s way really came into laser focus during Hurricane Irma last year,” she says. “It had been a part of our master planning process, but that really put an exclamation point on it.”

Once a first phase of the projects concludes, Selby will have an expansive 10,000-square-foot solar array that could make the attraction the first botanical garden in the world with a net-positive energy output; incidentally the restaurant would be the first in the world to have a net-positive output as well.

 “It will make us an international model for sustainability,” Rominiecki says. “I’m excited by what this new plan will do.”

Rendering courtesy Overland Partners.

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