Historic Spanish Point joining Selby Gardens as companion campus as of May 1

Gulf Coast Community Foundation helped negotiate the deal

Orchids adorn a conservatory at Selby Gardens during an exhibition in October 2018. Contributed photo by Matt Holler

On April 17, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Board of Trustees announced that Historic Spanish Point would be joining its organization as a companion campus as of May 1.

“Combining two nonprofits with similar missions, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will showcase air plants of the world, native nature, and regional history through both its Downtown [Sarasota] campus and its new Historic Spanish Point campus,” a news release says.

Historic Spanish Point, “a hidden 30-acre gem on Little Sarasota Bay in the Osprey area of Sarasota County, is one of the largest waterfront preserves showcasing native Florida plants in the state,” the release explains. “With an archaeological record that encompasses approximately 5,000 years of Florida history,” Historic Spanish Point also is one of the largest intact and actively preserved archaeological sites on the Gulf Coast of Florida, the release notes. Similar to Selby Gardens’ downtown Sarasota facilities, Historic Spanish Point “was owned by a forward-thinking woman of her time, Bertha Palmer (1849-1918), a Chicago native who became a Florida real estate pioneer,” the release points out.

“Despite concerted efforts,” the release continues, Historic Spanish Point has not been able to secure sustainable revenue streams to cover its operating budget.

Image from the Historic Spanish Point website

In seeking a means of keeping the Osprey destination “a natural site that honors Florida’s history,” Historic Spanish Point representatives worked through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Invest in Incredible program to approach leaders at Selby Gardens “to explore possibilities,” the release adds. “While conversations began in February, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting financial challenges at [Historic Spanish Point] made the situation more urgent,” the release says.

As a result of the successful negotiations, the release points out, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will become an umbrella organization with two distinct campuses. The Gulf Coast Heritage Association, which has run Historic Spanish Point, has been adopted as a supporting organization to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the release adds.

“It is always our hope to find win-win solutions for organizations,” said Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in the release. “The mission and vision of Selby Gardens and Historic Spanish Point are extremely compatible,” he added in the release. “And we are confident this merger will allow Historic Spanish Point to reach its full potential, in turn allowing Sarasota residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy two significant cultural resources for generations to come.”

All staff at Historic Spanish Point will be retained, and Executive Director John McCarthy will become vice president of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point campus, the release notes. Additionally, two members of the former Gulf Coast Heritage Association Board of Directors will join the Selby Gardens Board of Trustees.

Selby Gardens is located less than 10 miles to the north of Historic Spanish Point, the release notes. It has a membership base of 14,000 households, compared to the 750 member households for Historic Spanish Point. Over the past five fiscal years, a “dramatic financial turnaround at Selby Gardens’ Downtown campus” resulted in the elimination of Selby Gardens’ debt for the first time in its history, the release points out. During the same time period, admissions have grown by 55%, memberships by 67%, and earned revenue
by 70%

2 thoughts on “Historic Spanish Point joining Selby Gardens as companion campus as of May 1”

  1. Why the rush in the midst of a pandemic?

    I have been a family member of both organizations for over 20 years and the first I heard of the ‘merger’ was last Friday’s announcement and then Saturday’s Trib article.

    It has the look and smell of a hostile business takeover to me, and why would it be announced the last thing on a Friday afternoon?

    How is Historic Spanish Point with limited resources going to ‘support’ Selby Gardens?

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