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Selby Gardens seeks restaurant, increase in commercial operations

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved allowing city staff to process a change to the city’s comprehensive plan that will allow increased commercial activity at the 14.73-acre Marie Selby Garden site in downtown Sarasota.

Marie Selby Gardens in its recently completed master plan wishes to undertake a $67 million redevelopment of its site and expansion of several uses.

Currently, the zoning at Selby Gardens is residential and is bordered by residential properties. Selby Gardens wants to first change the comprehensive plan and then rezone the property to Downtown Edge.

Currently, the residential zoning does not allow for a parking garage, which is proposed in the master plan. Another, perhaps more significant change, is the desire for a stand-alone restaurant that would serve not only visitors, but the public as well.

Selby Gardens has stated that the parking garage would house more than 450 vehicles and the restaurant would be located on top of the garage, which would afford waterfront views and views across the existing residential neighborhood.

At the Monday City Commission meeting, Selby Gardens CEO and President Jennifer Rominiecki told the commission that more than 200,000 visitors came to the Gardens last year. She added that some of the events were so popular that they ran out of parking and guests were turned away.

Part of the rationale for the master plan is to rebuild the facilities including those that hold the extensive orchid collection out of the flood zone and in elevated structures that meet Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

Rominiecki spoke of the ever-increasing economic impact Marie Selby Gardens has on the community and how the expansion would add to its cachet.

The Selby Gardens master plan, if permitted by the city, will be built in phases. The first phase includes the rooftop restaurant, parking garage, as well as new administrative offices and a library.

The second phase includes the new conservatories, the learning pavilion, central garden as well as a botany research center and spirit lab. The master plan also includes restoring the historic buildings.

The plan will take about 10 years to consummate and Selby Gardens intends to remain open throughout the process.

The Comprehensive Plan Amendment sought by Marie Selby Gardens will be discussed by both the Planning Board as well as the Sarasota City Commission over the next 10 months and will require two readings for its adoption by the commission.

A community workshop is part of the process and property owners within 500 feet of Selby Gardens will receive notification and the general public can attend the meeting as well. The public community meeting date has not been formally set at this time. The master plan will be financed through ongoing fundraising efforts.

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