Sarasota area readers sound off on key issues.
Garden expansion would satisfy Selby's goals
I have noticed on these pages and on signs posted in the neighborhood by those opposing the redevelopment of Selby Gardens that they apparently have channeled the spirit of Marie Selby to assert that she would have opposed this expansion. This seems to me a very dubious claim.
Unfortunately, we don’t know Mrs. Selby’s thinking about the future of her garden. When she died, the only thing she specified was that the garden would bear her name and the management would be left to a board of trustees. However, she did leave a bequest of $2 million so that the garden could expand, so we know that she envisioned a much larger garden than the 5 acres in the original bequest.
We do know that she was no fan of towering condominium towers. One of her final land purchases was to buy land adjacent to her property that was slated for a high-rise condominium tower. This purchase in the final months of her life made a public garden there feasible. The planned parking garage on the corner of Orange and Mound is hardly the kind of development she rejected. She was concerned about the devastation of the waterfront and effectively stopped the inexorable development of towers running south along the bay and made Mound Street the line where the destruction stopped.
Mrs. Selby was a very private person. She didn’t leave a diary, correspondence nor had she granted interviews about her private views. We do know she was passionate about gardens being actively involved in garden clubs throughout her life in Sarasota. Her other great passion was education and research. In the founding documents of the Selby Foundation, the main focus of their philanthropy was to support organizations dedicated to “educational purposes of a public nature”
The expansion of Selby Garden would achieve all three of Mrs. Selby’s most important goals. It will increase the amount of garden space; it will provide modern greenhouses for expanded scientific research and will have more space for educational programs for children and adults. It is very hard to imagine that Mrs. Selby wouldn’t be all in for this important project. And you don’t need a Ouija board to know that.