With a proposed parking facility whose height will be reduced by 40 percent, and a commitment to scaling back the size of a proposed new restaurant and moving it from the rooftop to an adjacent site and operating it only during Gardens hours, Selby Gardens unveiled its compromise master site plan to a roomful of major donors Sunday evening.

The new four-story parking structure, which will also contain a garden shop, will be called the LEAF, an acronym for Living Energy Access Facility. The LEAF’s roof will house a 50,000-square-foot solar panel array that will produce one megawatt of power, making Selby Gardens the world’s first net-positive botanical garden complex. A planned stormwater management system will clean water used onsite before returning it to Sarasota Bay.

Selby Gardens executive director Jennifer Rominiecki told the group Sunday evening that the changes made to the original master plan respond to neighbors’ concerns about the size of the project while upholding its integrity—primarily increasing garden space and protecting the gardens’ world-renowned plant collections. She also announced that $35 million of the $42.5 million needed for Phase One—the construction of a Welcome Center, Plant Research Center, LEAF building and multi-use recreation trail around the Gardens’ perimeter—has already been raised. Already completed in 2019 was the restoration of the Selby House, the original home of Bill and Marie Selby.

It is expected that the entire master plan improvements will cost $92 million—$20 million of that an operating endowment—and will take 10 years to complete. Meanwhile last week, the Gardens’ aged and dilapidated two-story administration building on the corner of South Palm Avenue and Mound Street was razed to make way for additional surface parking until work gets underway on the LEAF parking facility. 

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