With Master Plan Approved, Selby Gardens Look To Bring It To Life

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY JAN 7, 2021

The long process of winning approval for a master plan for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens reached its goal on Tuesday evening. The Sarasota City Commission voted 4-1 in favor of a compromise proposal. Now, Selby Gardens Executive Director Jennifer Rominiecki turns her attention toward fundraising and a hopeful groundbreaking in spring this year.

A goal has been set to raise $42.5 million for the first phase of the plan, and Selby Gardens has already raised $35 million toward that goal, Rominiecki tells SRQ MEDIA. “We haven’t worked out all the details of construction phasing, but the idea behing all of the planning is the experience in the Gardens themselves will not be disrupted,” she said.

While much of the public conversation about the plan has naturally turned to new construction like a new parking structure, restaurant and learning center, the plan has always called for the original property owner by city matriarch Marie Selby to be left undeveloped. Rominiecki suggested one underappreciated part of the plan is that the zoning changes mean the property can only be used for a botanical garden for the future.

The first phase will ultimately include the parking structure, restaurant, welcome center and research facilities. A year after an initial plan was rejected by the Sarasota City Commission, Rominecki said Selby Gardens leaders reduced the height of the parking garage and moved a new restaurant from a rooftop structure to a ground level build. The organization also committed to limiting the hours the restaurant would be open to Selby Gardens operating hours.

Notably, the first construction that will happen will be to improve traffic infrastructure around the Gardens. “The first work is actually the offsite roadway improvements,” Rominiecki said, referencing intersection improvements at Mount and Orange. While there has not been an exact timeline developed, Rominiecki envisions construction of the entire phase to take 18 to 24 months. The zonings secured in the city process will be in place as the plan enters future phases, though

Selby Gardens leaders will need approvals on site plans for coming phases on construction. Rominiecki feels the community has largely embraced the plan. The project became a major debate point in this year’s City Commission elections, which ultimately led to a Commission being installed that was much warmer to the proposal. Rominiecki hopes as the project comes to life, the community will further embrace it.

“At the end of the day, we know we can’t make every single individual happy,: she said, “but we have definitely won a lot of people over with the changes we made.”

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