Longboat Key, Florida | April 17th, 2018 – This is one piece of wonderful news that we at the Judy Kepecz-Hays team would be more than glad to share. The widely circulated USA Today in March ranked the bayfront Marie Selby Botanical Gardens at the edge of downtown Sarasota among the top 10 parks of its kind in the country.
Notably, the Marie Selby Gardens was the only one in Florida in this listing which identified smaller, lesser-known U.S. botanical parks but which are equally worthy destinations as their larger counterparts.
Marina Row’s Gem
The Selby Botanical Gardens is truly a Sarasota landmark worth visiting. It occupies the 15-acre southwest quadrant of South Palm Avenue and Bayfront Drive, right at the southern edge of the “Marina Row” of bayfront downtown condominiums like Essex House and Marina Tower.
The Botanical Gardens grew from the five-acre former residence of prominent Sarasota couple William and Marie Selby who settled in the bayfront during the early 1900s. After more than 40 years since this botanical park was established, its acreage not only expanded but also became a downtown tropical oasis teeming with a rare and beautiful collection of plants and flowers.
There are 12 structures within this unique park, which includes more besides its tropical and subtropical bamboo garden. The other attractions here are a fern garden, a koi pond, and a wooden boardwalk traversing a mangrove forest.
Haven for Learners and Diners
A dock is also one of Marie Selby facilities, and it has undergone recent improvements to reintroduce this botanical park’s partnership with the Carefree Learner floating classroom of Sarasota High School. Based at the Marina Jack, this learning program features boat trips around Sarasota Bay, and its Selby Gardens itinerary focuses on the park’s mangroves and how these trees benefit the environment.
Open 364 days a year, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens also recently entered into a tie-up with the popular Sarasota restaurant Michael’s On East. The botanical park’s main banquet hall was renovated under this partnership, and it was renamed Michael’s On the Bay at Selby Gardens.
With three sides of the Selby Gardens flanked by water, dining in this 4,800-square-foot facility surely is a delight with a visual feast of the bay included in the experience. No wonder this venue is a favorite for private functions and weddings as well as special events like Wine, Dine & Pine and the annual Mother’s Day brunch.
More Surprises Coming
During the past two years, membership in the Sarasota botanical park has likewise expanded, which contributed to a 26 percent increase in its revenues. The introduction of museum-style programming helped grow patronage of the Marie Selby facilities as well.
We can expect more surprises from this Sarasota institution, as it announced late last year a 10-year, phased-in renovation which is estimated to cost $67 million. The first phase, with a projected spending of $35 million, will entail the construction of a new welcome center, collections area, a rooftop restaurant and a five-story structure for parking at Orange Avenue and Mound Street.
Cutting-edge sustainable design is envisioned for this multi-story parking area which will incorporate living walls that preview the Selby Gardens’ plant collections. It will also feature solar power panels and cisterns for stormwater storage.
A new greenhouse complex will be built as part of the renovation’s second phase. The third phase calls for restoration of the property’s historic buildings and rerouting of the botanical park’s pathways, which upon completion should keep visitors flowing in smoothly within the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.