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Selby Gardens Announces Revised Expansion Plan

Addressing community concerns with its initial plan, Sarasota’s Selby Gardens has announced its amended expansion proposal.

The initial plan was rejected in a 3-2 city commission vote Nov. 5 after area residents raised issues with the height of the parking garage, evening noise from the proposed roof-top restaurant, and the potential for increased traffic.

The compromise master plan cuts the parking structure’s overall height by 40%, reduces the size of the planned restaurant and moves it to the ground floor, as well as limits its hours of operation to mirror the gardens' business hours.

Selby Gardens President and CEO Jennifer Rominiecki said that the compromise plan addresses the concerns garden officials heard in more than 40 hours of public meetings and listening sessions.

“We really feel that we've addressed major concerns with this compromise master plan,” said Rominiecki. “We hope that the citizens of Sarasota will widely embrace this plan. It is vital to Selby Gardens' future being sustainable in this site.”

Rominiecki said that the expansion addresses significant challenges and is critical for the future success of the botanical garden. It has one of the world’s largest collections of orchids and bromeliads, but the aging structure's location in a flood zone leaves the scientific collection vulnerable during Florida’s hurricane season.

The garden also faces problems accommodating visitors during the peak season. On busy days, the garden has had to turn away more than 200 visitors due to a dearth of parking.

“Our land was acquired in parcels over nearly 45 years, and a master plan was never implemented. And so we're lacking the key infrastructure to accommodate visitors - the public parking being the biggest challenge for us,” said Rominiecki.

Outside of the parking garage and restaurant, the vision for expansion remains largely unchanged.

The planned hurricane resistant plant research center that includes a library, laboratories and herbarium, as well as a new, seperate vertical sky-garden, survived the revisions.

The $92 million project includes the installation of 50,000 square feet of solar panels and the inclusion of a new storm water management system, which help achieve the garden’s goal of becoming the first botanical complex to produce more energy than it consumes.

“Growth is upon us, whether we like it or not. The population is increasing and everything is growing exponentially. Our cultural assets need to be able to keep up and be sustainable for the future,” said Rominiecki. "It's better to plan for growth and be strategic about it, rather than let it just happen around you."

Rominiecki said they plan to submit the plan to the city in about a week. From there, Selby officials say if it’s deemed to be complete, the earliest it could be presented to the Development Review Committee is April 1. If it passes that, it would then eventually go to the Planning Board and City Commission for consideration.

The initial proposal contained a rooftop restaurant. New plans move the restaurant to the ground floor. Courtesy: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Delaney Brown is a radio news intern for the fall of 2019.
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