Selby Gardens receives $1-million gift for Master Plan, with Phase One opening expected in early November

Philanthropist Richard Matson makes latest funding pledge

Sarasota philanthropist Richard Matson has made a $1-million pledge to support the Master Plan for Selby Gardens’ downtown Sarasota campus, Gardens’ leaders announced during the nonprofit’s annual Chairman’s Circle Dinner held on Jan. 23.

Matson and his wife, Cornelia, are already leadership donors for the project, a news release notes. They were part of a “group of supporters who seeded a Capping Challenge with a dollar-for-dollar match to reach the fundraising goal for Phase One,” the release explains. “Inspired by the continued progress of construction on the project’s first phase, which will be complete in less than 10 months, Matson chose to make an additional gift through his estate plan that is being recognized now toward Phase One,” the release adds.

“The Master Plan just floored me,” Matson said, “recalling when Selby Gardens President & CEO Jennifer Rominiecki first presented an overview of the project to him,”  the release notes. “It really opened my eyes to the potential of Selby Gardens — the research, the library, the location. It was just perfect,” Matson added in the release.

“Richard and Cornelia Matson’s support for Selby Gardens goes back several decades, to even before they moved to Sarasota full-time in 1983,” the release says. “The couple started visiting the area after Richard’s mother and aunt moved to the city,” the release continues;  they first became involved with the Gardens during those visits.

“Construction of Phase One of the Selby Gardens Master Plan is scheduled to be completed in October, with grand-opening festivities planned for early November,” the release points out. “When it opens, Phase One will include, among other improvements,” the following:

  • A “new Welcome Center to properly accommodate and orient guests.
  • A “cutting-edge Plant Research Center, with a state-of-the-art herbarium, laboratory, and library.”
  • The “Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF), which will house parking, a garden-to-plate restaurant, and a plant and gift shop, all topped by a nearly 50,000-square-foot solar array.”

“To date, Selby Gardens has raised more than $56 million for the Master Plan, with only about $600,000 left to raise for Phase One construction,” the release notes. “The first phase accounts for more than half of the overall three-phase project.”

For more information about the Master Plan, visit