Marie Selby Botanical Garden Logo

Selby Gardens’ Master Plan – Downtown Sarasota Campus

Phase One of the Master Plan at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus opened to the public on January 11, 2024!



About the Project

In a 4-1 vote on February 16, 2021, the Sarasota City Commission gave final approval to the applications necessary for Selby Gardens’ Master Plan to become a reality! This undertaking is vital to preserving our history, safeguarding the world’s best scientifically documented plant collections of their kind, and sustaining our future — both environmentally and financially.

The Groundbreaking Ceremony for our Master Plan took place Thursday, June 3, 2021. Construction of Phase One of the Master Plan is now well underway, with completion of the first phase on January 11, 2024. We are thrilled to begin to realize the full potential of our beloved gardens, while also preserving our important history for the generations to come.

Board Groundbreaking at Downtown Sarasota campus

Implementing the Master Plan will allow Selby Gardens to:

Master Plan Aerial Overview Image
  • Realize our full potential, while also preserving our important history for the generations to come
  • Safeguard and showcase the world’s best scientifically documented collections of orchids and bromeliads
  • Add more open space
  • Become an international model for the latest green building technology
  • Create a new stormwater purification and solar energy plant on site, making the campus the first-ever net-positive botanical garden complex in the world
  • Accommodate our visitor base
  • Connect the underserved families and children in our region to the wonders of Selby Gardens
Master Plan Welcome Center

Selby Gardens is innovating a botanical garden unlike any other.

Upon completion of the three-phase Master Plan, Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus will be

  • A world-class destination for plant research, conservation, and environmental education
  • A fascinating demonstration of eco-friendly architecture and landscape design that will revolutionize the way we think about our built environment
  • An urban bayfront oasis that forges lifelong connections to nature
  • An international model for conservation

Scientific inquiry is at the heart of Selby Gardens’ mission.

Herbarium and Library in Master Plan

The new Selby Gardens will demonstrate why we must act today to preserve the precious plants that are critical to the survival of all life on our planet. The Master Plan:

  • Vividly illustrates how all life depends on plants
  • Reveals hidden treasures, including more than 125,000 specialized collections of tropical flora in a new, larger herbarium; and more than 35,000 specimens preserved in fluid, the second largest spirit collection in the world
  • Shares an invaluable library collection that includes priceless, rare volumes and hand-colored botanical illustrations dating from the 18th century
  • Moves irreplaceable scientific resources to secure, hurricane resilient structures
  • Provides a window into our once-hidden research facilities and laboratories
  • Spotlights the fascinating field work conducted by our scientists to catalog the earth’s biodiversity

Selby Gardens, the most biodiverse botanical garden in the world per acre, will welcome and engage every guest in a personal dialogue with nature.

Master Plan Epicenter

More than 25,000 plants are represented in the living collection. Plants and natural beauty take center stage at the Downtown Sarasota campus of Selby Gardens. From initial arrival and living walls at the Living Energy Access Facility (L.E.A.F.) to greenhouses and grounds, visitors will enjoy:

  • Enhanced strolling gardens and water features that simulate Florida’s terrain and abundant waterways
  • New pathways to discover
  • Light-filled glass houses that show off world-class living collections
  • Dramatic plant displays in a dedicated greenhouse gallery
  • Views of Sarasota Bay throughout the Gardens
  • Access by boat or water taxi

Learning at Selby Gardens is effortless, joyous, and nature-based.

Selby Gardens School Tour

Selby Gardens’ new campus will be filled with opportunities to engage and to deepen connections to nature through:

  • Experiences that illuminate, captivate, and delight
  • Visual clues that prompt questions and curiosity about plants and the natural world
  • A campus that teaches exciting concepts in green urban design
  • A new Learning Pavilion that offers:
    • Expanded school programs
    • Fun and engaging family programs
    • Free play and scientific exploration
  • A robust exhibition program that explores Selby Gardens’ core mission and the links between nature and the arts, connecting the Museum of Botany & the Arts with the entire Gardens
  • Expanded capacity and enhanced classroom space for children as well as lifelong learners

Selby Gardens will be a living embodiment of the latest sustainability concepts.

LEAF building at Selby Gardens

Going above and beyond LEED certification, our Living Buildings will strive for net-positive energy, be free of toxic chemicals, and lower the energy footprint many times below the generic commercial structure. The Master Plan will include:

  • A series of rain gardens built to mimic natural water management systems
  • An advanced solar field structure and other features designed to generate excess energy, making Selby Gardens the first botanical garden complex in the world to achieve a coveted net-positive rating
  • A rooftop edible garden to provide fresh produce for the garden-level café, which will be planned, planted, and maintained by Operation EcoVets, a program of Easterseals Southwest Florida

Every building incorporates:

  • Storm water collection systems that clean and reuse more than a million gallons of water a year
  • Walls that insulate buildings from the elements
  • Innovations that demonstrate how communities of the future can coexist in harmony with nature

The Master Plan has been guided by the international landscape architecture studio OLIN, building architecture firm Overland Partners and civil engineer Kimley-Horn. Willis Smith Construction will serve as the construction manager for the project.

To connect local citizens with the jobs this project will create, Selby Gardens will spearhead a job training program where local citizens can learn trades and earn credentials in high-demand fields such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC and machining.  This will be accomplished through a new partnership with Willis Smith Construction, Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s CareerEdge Funders Collaborative.  Contractors who hire these trainees will have priority during the bidding process.

Phase I will include:

  • A new Welcome Center to properly accommodate and orient guests.
  • A cutting-edge Plant Research Center that will include a state-of-the-art Herbarium and Laboratory as well as a Research Library to appropriately steward rare books and prints dating to the 1700s.
  • The Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF) that will house parking, a gift shop and a garden-level restaurant – capped with a 50,000-square-foot solar array that will make Selby Gardens the world’s first net-positive botanical garden complex.  As part of the LEAF, a stormwater filtration system will treat stormwater runoff and return clean water to Sarasota Bay.
Master Plan Phase I Selby Gardens

Phase II will include:

  • A hurricane-resilient greenhouse complex to house the world-renowned living collections.
  • A Learning Pavilion, which will offer expanded capacity for school programs and enhance indoor and outdoor classroom space for children and adults.
Master Plan Phase II Selby Gardens

Phase III will include:

  • Restoration of the landmark Payne Mansion, which serves as the Museum of Botany & the Arts.
  • Unification of all walking paths throughout the Gardens.
  • Bolstering of sea walls surrounding the property and renovation of docks.
Master Plan Phase III Selby Gardens

To learn more about this effort, please click here.

The most recent RFP can be accessed here.