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Year in Review – Selby Gardens development plan moves back to City

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens began its request to amend the City Comprehensive Plan and Code to allow the redevelopment of its Bayfront property. The City has heard hours of debate and community input over the plan by Selby, which includes a five-story parking garage, rooftop restaurant and expansion of its Botanical Gardens.

It is the parking garage and restaurant that has drawn criticism primarily from neighbors to the east and south who believe they will be impacted by an increase in activity at the site.

Selby announced it would reduce the size of the restaurant from 10,000 square feet to 7,500 square feet, eliminate elevator access to the rooftop and move a dining terrace to the north side of the building to make the project more palpable for the community.

Jennifer Rominiecki, Selby President and CEO, referred to the parking garage as a ‘Sky Garden’ and spoke of the 230,000 visitors to Selby in 2019. Romineicki said the plan both provides a path financially for the future of Selby as well as a means to increase garden space and exhibits and usher in the next generation for the organization.

The reason for a Comprehensive Plan change is to allow the addition of a restaurant, which would serve as a new commercial use on the site. It is necessary for Marie Selby Gardens to garner at least four votes of the five-member commission to amend the future Land Use plan and the Comprehensive Plan in order to accomplish its vision.

A site plan would be presented and come later if the Comprehensive Plan changes are approved.

At issue is Selby Gardens’ $92 million plan that includes a five-story parking garage and rooftop restaurant. Opponents, many of whom were neighbors, argued that the plan for the restaurant would create a new primary use that would increase traffic and congestion, especially on Orange Avenue. Others said the structure will be too tall and out of proportion with the Hudson Bayou neighborhood.

Rominiecki said the garage will benefit the mission of the Gardens by allowing more space – up to 50 percent more – for botanical gardens by moving parking from surface land to the vertical structure. The garage has been dubbed a “Sky Garden” by Selby, and the organization says the restaurant will serve to help its financial stability going forward.

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