Selby Gardens Announces Early Leadership Gifts for New Master Site Plan & Future Programming

April 27, 2018

Phase One of the plan includes the Jean Goldstein Welcome Center & Nathalie McCulloch Library, as well as a Sky Terrace and Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center.

Concepts call for increased green space, state-of-the-art glass houses and additional education outreach.

SARASOTA, Fla., April 27, 2018 – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the world’s only botanical garden dedicated to the study, display and conservation of epiphytic plants, proudly announces early leadership gifts toward the institution’s new master site plan and future programming that will increase its green space by 50 percent and secure its scientific collection to protect it from future sea level rise, allowing for expanded educational outreach.

Today the institution shared that more than $15 million in early leadership gifts have been raised in the six months since the conceptual master plan was unveiled. The three-phase, multi-year plan details how the botanical garden will grow to become a global model for horticultural display, botanical studies and green building technology, while also welcoming additional visitors to the more than 200,000 people that currently visit its property on Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota each year.

“The enthusiasm and energy for Selby Gardens’ future is clearly demonstrated through these lead gifts,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “Our supporters know that an investment in Selby Gardens is good for the entire community, future scientists and long-term plant conservation throughout the world.”

Leadership Contributors to the project include:

  • Amicus Foundation
  • Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation
  • Drs. Andrew and Judith Economos
  • The Gardener Foundation
  • Jean Weidner Goldstein and the late Alfred Goldstein
  • Marcy and Michael Klein
  • Dr. and Mrs. Carlyle A. Luer
  • The Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation
  • Cornelia and Richard Matson
  • Nathalie McCulloch
  • The Steinwachs Family Foundation
  • The Stone Foundation
  • The State of Florida

In its more than 40 years of existence, Selby Gardens’ full 15 acres were never adapted for the infrastructure a botanical garden requires. The Gardens’ plan considers the long-term needs to protect the world’s best scientifically-documented collection of orchids and bromeliads, and also to accommodate the institution’s growth, which in the past two years has shown a 36% increase in visitors, a 29% increase in membership households, and a 26% increase in overall annual revenues thanks to a new Living Museum operating model.


The plan for Selby Gardens has been guided by the international landscape architecture studio OLIN. The firm was contracted in late 2016 and worked with the Gardens’ board of trustees, an advisory committee and staff to reimagine the historical property of Marie Selby, a philanthropist who, along with her husband, William, helped shape the greater Sarasota area. The Selbys’ original property was just over five acres. After the botanical garden was established in the early 1970s following Marie’s passing, the institution grew in small steps, purchasing property along Palm Avenue from nearby neighbors, including the historic Payne Mansion which is home to the Gardens’ Museum of Botany & the Arts.

The new plan calls for the removal of the buildings that are decaying and not historically significant. Remaining are the Selby House, Payne Mansion and Carriage House and bayfront event space – Michael’s on the Bay at Selby Gardens. With the removal of failing former residential buildings that house operations and consolidating parking, Selby Gardens will see a significant  expansion of garden and open space.

The first phase of the project (which entails nearly half of the work to be completed) includes the Jean Goldstein Welcome Center, which will be home to the Nathalie McCulloch Library, leading to the Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center. Notably, the Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center will house the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Herbarium and Laboratory, which will steward and display the institution’s renowned preserved plant collection that is referenced by botanists worldwide. Included in the collection will be the newly-gifted and highly-regarded orchid collection of Dr. Carlyle A. Luer, a founder of Selby Gardens and noted orchidologist. Dr. Luer has described and illustrated more than 3,000 plants for science, leading his contemporary peers.

Another key piece of phase one is the Sky Garden. This five-story visitor services building will include parking, retail space and a destination restaurant. The structure will be designed with extensive plantings that showcase the living plants Selby Gardens’ researchers study and protect. The rooftop restaurant will make use of an adjacent edible garden and a 20,000-square-foot solar panel array, which will provide more than the expected electricity needs. Beneath the structure, rainwater harvesting systems will treat and store as much as 500,000 gallons of water to be used for irrigation and to improve the runoff treatment system leading to nearby Hudson Bayou. These building systems will provide educational lessons about water quality, green technology and solar power to visitors thanks to the Charles & Margery Barancik FoundationWith this support, Selby Gardens will be able to further expand its education and conservation programs, Rominiecki said.

“Once implemented, the state-of- the-art green technology will make Selby Gardens an international model for urban design planning,” Rominiecki said. “More importantly, we are developing the programs that will expand plant research for youth and for pre-eminent plant researchers alike.”

This first phase of the plan could begin construction as early as next year, pending additional funding. The three-phase, 10-year project has a preliminary cost estimate of $67 million. The first phase calls for the most significant funding at approximately $35 million. Upcoming public meetings later this spring with the City of Sarasota will address changes to the plan and site following meetings with neighbors that began last fall. Locally, Kimley-Horn is overseeing the project. 

A new greenhouse complex, and improved, more intuitive, circuitous routes throughout the property round out the plan. Palm Avenue will be converted to a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, showcasing the historic Augusta Block it is known for, which visitors will be able to admire safely with the improved layout.

“This plan upholds our past and also ensures Selby Gardens’ future, which has significant scientific importance. It also allows us to expand on Marie’s original gift to the community of an oasis of green space in the middle of downtown Sarasota, but envisioned at the highest level,” Rominiecki said. “We are proud to be able to continue her legacy.”

# # #

About Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns and other tropical plants with a focus on botany, horticulture and environmental education.Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 900 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas. Regular admission is $20 and $10 children ages 4-17; members and children 3 and under enter free. Contact us at (941) 366-5731 or Get social with us on Facebook, Instagram and more by searching @selbygardens or visit for more information.


Tags: community support, edible garden, green technology, landscape architecture, living walls, master site plan, sarasota, selby gardens, solar energy, storm water