Construction Goes Vertical on Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota Campus

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Construction Goes Vertical on Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota Campus

$51.6-Million Phase One of Campus Master Plan Scheduled for Completion in August 2023; Project Will Create First Certified Net-Positive Energy Botanical Garden Complex in World

SARASOTA, Fla., April 1, 2022 – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has received the permit to begin vertical construction on Phase One of the Master Plan for its Downtown Sarasota campus.

With the permit in hand, vertical construction is now underway on the Living Energy Access Facility, or LEAF, a multipurpose structure that will house a new garden-to-plate restaurant, expanded gift and plant shop, and on-site parking, all topped by a nearly 50,000-square-foot solar array. The $51.6-million first phase of the estimated $92-million project also will feature a new Welcome Center, a cutting-edge Plant Research Center with a state-of-the-art Herbarium and Research Library, and more.

“This project is truly innovative and transformational—for Selby Gardens and for Sarasota—as our Downtown Sarasota campus becomes the first net-positive energy botanical garden complex in the world,” said President & CEO Jennifer O. Rominiecki. “With the ribbon-cutting for Phase One less than 17 months away, our donors will see the impact of their philanthropy in real time. We are so grateful to our loyal supporters and many other partners for making this important milestone possible.”

Phase One of the Master Plan project is designed to improve the visitor experience at Selby Gardens, better protect and showcase the organization’s world-class research collections, and make the Downtown Sarasota campus a model for the latest in sustainable design and operation. In addition to the LEAF’s rooftop solar array, which will generate almost one megawatt of power, the project includes other environmental features with benefits that extend beyond the Gardens themselves. An underground stormwater vault, which already has been constructed, will capture and treat all stormwater runoff that passes through the Phase One footprint. This stormwater-filtration system will effectively divert and clean millions of gallons of water each year before it is returned to Sarasota Bay.

Phase One also includes a new multi-use recreational trail (MURT) that will enable multimodal transportation to the campus and the bayfront. The MURT will connect to a bayfront pocket park that is owned by the City of Sarasota but will be improved and maintained by Selby Gardens. Other highlights of Phase One will be the creation of new garden features and more green space, restoration of historic Palm Avenue as a pedestrian-only promenade, and offsite roadway improvements.

Steady Progress in Uncertain Times

Phase One has been able to proceed on an aggressive construction schedule thanks to successful fundraising and innovative financing, according to Rominiecki. Of the $51.6-million price tag for the first phase, which represents more than half of the overall project, Selby Gardens must raise only about $5 million more. A Capping Challenge for the Phase One fundraising campaign is currently underway, with all new donations matched dollar-for-dollar until the interim goal is met. The Capping Challenge was seeded by several Selby Gardens donors.

Meanwhile, earlier this year the organization secured $31 million in financing for the project through a tax-free bond issue. The proceeds are providing the working capital needed for construction while multiyear philanthropic gifts from the successful fundraising campaign are realized. Selby Gardens’ bond issue achieved the rare ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) Sustainability Bond rating, demonstrating the Master Plan’s innovative sustainability and social-impact aspects. There was heavy investor interest in the bond sale, according to Rominiecki, with orders placed for three times the amount of bonds available, a result of Selby Gardens’ strong financial health.

After Phase One is completed next summer, the Master Plan project will move on to Phases Two and Three. Phase Two will create a hurricane-resilient greenhouse complex to house Selby Gardens’ world-renowned living plant collection as well as a learning pavilion with expanded capacity for school programs and new indoor and outdoor classroom space for children through lifelong learners. Phase Three will complete the project with restoration of the campus’ two major historical buildings, unification of all walking paths throughout the Gardens, and bolstering of the property’s seawalls and dockage.

About Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens provides 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries connecting people with air plants of the world, native nature, and our regional history. Established by forward-thinking women of their time, Selby Gardens is composed of the 15-acre Downtown Sarasota campus and the 30-acre Historic Spanish Point campus in the Osprey area of Sarasota County, Florida. The Downtown campus on Sarasota Bay is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns, and other tropical plants. There is a significant focus on botany, horticulture, education, historical preservation, and the environment. The Historic Spanish Point campus is located less than 10 miles south along Little Sarasota Bay. One of the largest preserves showcasing native Florida plants that is interpreted for and open to the public, it celebrates an archaeological record that encompasses approximately 5,000 years of Florida history. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is also accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information visit www.selby.org.

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