Jan. 11, 2024 opening date for Phase One of Selby Gardens Campus Master Plan

More than 3,500 contributors provide funding for undertaking

This is a rendering of the new Welcome Center at Selby Gardens. Image courtesy Selby Gardens

Phase One of the three-phase master plan for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus will open to the public on Jan. 11, 2024, the Gardens staff has announced.

“The project adds 188,030 square feet of new facilities and amenities to Selby Gardens’ iconic campus on Sarasota Bay, which is uniquely dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, ferns, and other tropical plants,” a news release points out.

Phase One will feature the following components, the release notes:

  • The Morganroth Family Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF), which will house parking, a garden-to-plate restaurant, a new giftshop, vertical gardens, and “a nearly 50,000 square-foot solar array that will make Selby Gardensthe first net-positive energy botanical garden complex in the world.”
  • “The state-of-the-art Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center,which secures irreplaceable scientific resources in a hurricane-resilient structure and provides a window into once behind-the-scenes world-class research,” the release adds. “The facility contains the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Herbarium and Laboratory (housing preserved collections of more than 125,000 dried and pressed plant specimens and molecular scientific work), as well as a research library (with priceless volumes dating to the 1700s), spirit laboratory (with more than 35,000 specimens preserved in fluid — the second largest collection of its kind in the world), conference rooms, administrative offices,” and a rooftop garden and solar array.
  • The open-air Jean Goldstein Welcome Center,consisting of a ticketing pavilion, a welcome gallery, and welcome theater “to properly accommodate and orient guests; a major stormwater management system to divert and clean millions of gallons of water each year before it is returned to Sarasota Bay; a publicly accessible multiuse recreational trail enabling multimodal transportation to the campus and the bayfront; off-site roadway improvements, which will also make access easier and safer; and a number of new garden and water features with more open space, including a Lily Pond Garden, Glades Garden, and the restoration of historic Palm Avenue as a pedestrian-only promenade,” the release continues.

Employing the latest green technology, Phase One “will embody many of the latest sustainability concepts. Going above and beyond LEED certification, Selby Gardens is seeking ‘Petal’ certification through The Living Building Challenge of the International Living Future Institute,” the release explains.

A key component of this first phase will be a new restaurant, The Green Orchid, “which will be the world’s first net positive energy restaurant entirely utilizing solar power,” the release points out. Operated by Michaels on East, it “will feature a rooftop edible garden that will provide fresh produce for the menu,” the release says. “The edible garden is being planned, planted, and maintained by Operation EcoVets, a nonprofit organization that provides personal, educational, and professional growth opportunities for veterans,” the release adds.

Phase One of the Master Plan has been made possible by private contributions, the release points out. “More than $57 million has been raised, with $51.6 million being directed to the capital needs of Phase One,” the release adds.

This is a rendering of the Plant Research Center. Image courtesy Selby Gardens

In the release, Selby Gardens board Chair Dr. Joel Morganroth said, “On behalf of Selby Gardens’ Board of Trustees, we want to thank the more than 3,500 contributors who have made this vital undertaking possible. … We are also grateful to all of our members, volunteers, and staff for their tireless dedication to seeing this project through to fruition.”

Attracting more than 300,000 visitors a year, Selby Gardens is celebrating its 50th anniversary. “What better way to celebrate the last 50 years than by putting in the necessary infrastructure for the next 50?” Selby Gardens President and CEO Jennifer O. Rominiecki said in the release.

A timeline for the second and third phases of the Master Plan will be announced soon, the release notes. Those phases will include the following components:

  • “A hurricane-resilient greenhouse complex to house Selby Gardens’ world-renowned living collections.
  • “A learning pavilion offering expanded capacity for school programs and enhanced indoor and outdoor classroom space for children and adults.
  • “Restoration of the landmark Payne Mansion, which serves as the Museum of Botany & the Arts.
  • “Unification of all walking paths throughout the campus.
  • “Bolstering of sea walls surrounding the property and renovation of docks,” the release points out.