Funding Will Help Renovate Historic Palm Avenue into Pedestrian Promenade During Phase One of Gardens’ Master Plan for Downtown Sarasota Campus
William G. and Marie Selby Foundation has awarded Marie Selby Botanical Gardens a $250,000 grant to assist with the renovation of historic Palm Avenue as part of the Gardens’ transformational Master Plan for its Downtown Sarasota campus.
The preservation and enhancement of Palm Avenue is a core component of Phase One of the project, which is now under construction and scheduled for completion next August. As the road bifurcates Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus, its renovation into a pedestrian-only promenade will create a more cohesive experience for visitors to the Gardens, enhance the property’s historical interpretation, and connect to additional improvements around the campus’ perimeter.
“Palm Avenue is the main artery through the heart of our Downtown Sarasota campus,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “This restoration will unite the east and west sides of our campus while saving the street’s historic Augusta Block and creating an iconic pathway for our guests. We are so grateful to the Selby Foundation for keeping the spirit and interests of Bill and Marie Selby’s philanthropy alive by investing with us in this project.”
“On behalf of the Board of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, we are excited to be a partner in the evolution of Selby Gardens,” said Carol Butera, president and CEO of the Selby Foundation. “The Selbys always looked to bring about positive change in Sarasota, and they were willing to invest in innovation to achieve it. How fitting for the Selby Foundation to be part of a project that preserves and improves upon the Selbys’ original property and our local history, along with a vision for the future of the Gardens and our growing community.”
Phase One of Selby Gardens’ Master Plan will expand visitor access to its world-class collections and bayfront sanctuary, secure its priceless plant and research collections in new hurricane-resilient facilities, and provide more garden space for school groups, families, and other visitors to enjoy. As part of the first phase, the restoration of Palm Avenue will include removing and cleaning the road’s signature Augusta Block bricks, leveling the road after decades of vehicle traffic, and resetting the brick as a pedestrian promenade. New interpretative signage will tell the story of the Selbys, the history of the thoroughfare, and the significance of Selby Gardens’ collections.
“Palm Avenue was among the first streets paved with brick—a material that was both durable and flexible—after the City of Sarasota’s 1914 incorporation,” said John McCarthy, Selby Gardens’ vice president for regional history. “Selby Gardens and the Selby Foundation are recreating history by preserving and reinstalling the original Augusta Block pavers to boost access and welcome everyone into the heart of the Gardens.”
The restoration project also will tie into public right-of-way enhancements that Selby Gardens is completing as part of the Master Plan. The project includes a 12-foot-wide multi-use recreational trail along the perimeter of the campus, and a new public parklet will be created at the north end of Palm Avenue and maintained by Selby Gardens to allow visitors walking the bayfront to enjoy a view of the historic road.