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Selby Gardens’ Master Plan – Downtown Campus

After more than 40 hours of public input at hearings last fall and, more recently, at follow-up meetings with the community, three recurring concerns were voiced: the height of the parking structure and operation of a planned public restaurant being incongruous with the City’s comprehensive plan, noise from the planned restaurant, and the potential for increased traffic. Selby Gardens’ compromise Master Plan cuts the parking structure’s overall height by 40% and no longer seeks a change to the City’s comprehensive plan; reduces the size of the planned restaurant from 185 to a maximum of 110 seats; and limits the restaurant’s hours of operation to mirror the Gardens’ hours to cut down on noise and traffic from non-Gardens patrons. Our long-term goals remain protecting our collections, preserving our history, and sustaining our future. Thank you for your support of Selby Gardens during this vital time in our history.

We wanted to take this opportunity to answer some key questions about Selby Gardens’ efforts to make the compromise Master Plan at the Downtown Sarasota campus a reality.  This vital undertaking will preserve our history and sustain our future.

How will the Historic Spanish Point campus be affected by the Compromise Master Plan at the Downtown Sarasota campus?
The addition of the Historic Spanish Point campus will complement, but not dispense with the need for, the Master Plan at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus. While some programs can be offered on both campuses, the reality is that the two sites are nearly 10 miles apart, offer distinctive features and resources, and draw visitors from slightly different areas. By acquiring Historic Spanish Point, 30 acres of green space in Sarasota County has been saved and, in time, we will grow HSP’s research and educational opportunities around Florida’s native habitat, just as we have done with epiphytes (air plants) at the Downtown Sarasota campus. We are confident the two campuses will work very well together.

How has COVID-19 affected the Compromise Master Plan at the Downtown Sarasota campus?
Selby Gardens remains firmly committed to this effort.  $35 million has already been secured restricted solely to the project’s implementation. The construction jobs and economic impact created by this undertaking will give the local economy the jump start it needs once the pandemic is behind us.
Our project application to the City of Sarasota has been deemed complete, and we are awaiting the schedule for required public hearings as part of the approval process.  The City of Sarasota has currently delayed public hearings due to the pandemic, and we will keep you informed once we are able to proceed.

What is the Compromise Master Plan for the Downtown Sarasota Campus?
In February, after nearly 40 hours of public input at hearings last fall, and, more recently, through our continued efforts to engage with community members, we announced details of our compromise Master Plan for Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota Campus.
The project cuts the parking structure’s overall height by 40% and no longer seeks a change to the City’s comprehensive plan; reduces the size of the planned restaurant from 185 to a maximum of 110 seats; and limits the restaurant’s hours of operation to mirror the Gardens’ hours to cut down on noise and traffic from non-Gardens patrons.

Parking and Clean energy:
The compromise Master Plan includes a 40% reduction in the overall height of the building hosting a parking facility and retail space. The new structure, which will be called the Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF), will house a four-story parking facility and garden shop with a height of 38.5 feet–comparable to nearby neighborhood buildings. Most importantly, the LEAF will retain essential sustainability features from the initial Master Plan.  A 50,000-square-foot solar panel array on its roof will provide one megawatt of power, while a storm water management system will clean water used onsite and then return it to Sarasota Bay.  These features will make Selby Gardens the first net-positive botanical garden complex in the world, meaning more energy will be created than consumed.

 

Restaurant:
An on-site rooftop restaurant, originally proposed with 185 seats and open until 10 p.m., will now consist of a maximum of 110 seats, located on the ground floor adjacent to the LEAF building.  In addition to minimizing the overall number of patrons, hours of operation would be limited to mirror the Gardens’ hours, addressing concerns of evening noise and traffic associated with restaurant patrons.  Selby Gardens will own the restaurant with a significant percentage of net revenues reinvested to fund Selby Gardens’ mission.

Public Benefit:
While lowering the overall height of the LEAF building will shift elements of the project, the compromise Master Plan retains all the key elements of public benefit and the following remain:
The LEAF building reduces surface parking, which allows for a significant increase in overall garden space; a robust multi-use recreational trail for the community; and Selby Gardens will plan, amenitize, and maintain a portion of the City of Sarasota’s Bayfront public park as a gift to the community. Selby Gardens’ primary entrance will remain on U.S. 41 coupled with proposed physical and signal timing improvements to the U.S. 41 and Orange Avenue intersection.  A partnership among Selby Gardens, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, and Gulf Coast Builders Exchange will provide training in high-demand trades to City of Sarasota residents with hiring priority for jobs created by the project given to contractors that employ the trainees.  A brand new $250,000 gardens-wide sound mitigation system has already been installed to integrate, monitor and regulate sound throughout the Gardens.
Critically important to the world of plant science, the hurricane resilient Plant Research Center, which will house a new library, laboratory, and herbarium will become a reality.

Timeline:
The three-phase compromise Master Plan is projected to take 10 years and cost $92 million – $72 million for construction and $20 million for endowment and operations. Of the $42.5 million needed to implement the first phase, $35 million has been raised (80 percent of the funds needed). The first phase of the master plan includes the Welcome Center, Plant Research Center, LEAF building, the multi-use recreation trail around the perimeter of Selby Gardens’ property, increased public access, and the historical restorations of Palm Avenue and the Selby House (already completed in 2019). Later phases of the compromise Master Plan include a new greenhouse complex, a learning pavilion and improved, circuitous walking routes throughout the property as well as improvements to the historic Payne Mansion, home to the Museum of Botany & the Arts.

Thank you for your support of Selby Gardens during this vital time in our history. We will keep everyone updated with important next steps as information becomes available.

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