The leaders of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens have submitted a new plan for a campus redevelopment project, after the Sarasota City Council rejected its initial proposal.
The popular botanical garden has been working with the management of the Florida city for a while now over a multi-million dollar redevelopment plan there.
The firm announced last May that it’d be devoting about $92 million to the project, although none of that will be able to move forward without approval from government officials. So far, however, not much progress has been made on that front.
Setbacks For Marie Selby
The initial plan for the project was submitted a couple of years ago, although it stalled in the City Council and was put to the vote. However, the members of the public had made their feelings about the plan known, and it wasn’t quite welcome.
Particularly, citizens explained that the plan would have potentially increased traffic close to the intersection of U.S Route 41 and Orange Avenue. The Gardens’ plan to a five-story parking garage with a rooftop restaurant was also highly criticized for being a terrible fit with the surroundings.
The plan was eventually rejected by the City Council last November, with Commissioner Willie Shaw pointing out that indeed, the project would have led to increased traffic in the city. According to Your Observer’s account, compatibility with the neighborhood was another important consideration for the council’s decision, while another member pointed out that she didn’t believe Selby had provided enough evidence to justify that the plan was appropriate.
Those who supported the plan, however, explained that they believed the changes were required to improve the appeal of the area, while it could also provide some significant benefits to the community.
Changes, but Problems Linger
Now that changes have been made, Selby Gardens is having another go at the redevelopment project. In the new proposal, Selby reinforced its argument that the botanical garden will need to embark on a redevelopment project to effectively utilize its 14.7-acre property and ensure both operational and financial stability.
“Public interest serves as the main rationale for this rezone,” the application states. “It is in the interest of the city, residents and visitors alike that the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens continue to operate as a world-class botanical garden within the city limits,” the proposal reportedly read.
Some of the changes brought to the new application include a reduction to the size of the parking garage from a height of 75 feet to just about 45 feet. The planned restaurant will also be moved from the top of the building to the ground level, and it will only be operational when the gardens themselves are open- as opposed to being an independent business, as the initial plan stated.
The application also points out that Selby Gardens will be conducting additional traffic analysis in the future to ensure that the proposal doesn’t disrupt the free flow around the project.
Although the company just made its filing official, details about the scaled-back plans have been out for quite a while now. Selby outlined the revisions as far back as last month, opening the floor for people to give their comments.
However, several city locals were still not pleased with the new plan. Susan Chapman, a local, expressed her displeasure over the company commercializing what is supposed to be a botanical garden, per a news report.
“We as a neighborhood, we would like to work with them to find win-win solutions that don’t destroy our neighborhood peace and destroy the traffic for our neighborhood,” she reportedly added.