The city owns 4.4 acres of vacant land at the south west corner of Denning Drive and Orange Avenue. Our city commission has considered many uses for this land over many years. Our current commission met on May 4, 2020 on this issue. You can view their meeting here.
My May 6, 2020 letter to the commission on this issue is below. Please contact the commission with your thoughts: [email protected].
Mayor and Commissioners,
I offer comments on your discussions of May 4, 2020 regarding the Progress Point land owned by the city.
There seems to be a baseline expectation that some part of Progress Point should be a park. This only makes strategic sense if there exists sufficient proximate residential density so that the entire OAO area is activated in the same way Park Ave and Hannibal Square are activated by Central Park and Shady Park, respectively. Park Ave is supported by residents from many two to six story apartments, condos, and mixed use buildings. Hannibal Square is supported by many two to four story apartments, condos, and mixed use buildings. Both areas allow up to 200% FAR and over 20 residential units per acre.
Your decision to “rescind” the OAO Comp Plan and Land Development Code means you have rejected sufficient consolidated residential density to justify a park on the Progress Point property. The Mead Garden entrance is one quarter mile from Progress Point. In the absence of proximate residential density, what does new park at Progress Point offer the residents of Winter Park generally?
Setting policies for Progress Point before finalizing a new OAO is likely to prove unwise. I encourage you to complete “your OAO” before considering policy preferences for Progress Point.
The city owns Progress Point because of an earlier decision to swap the former tag agency land at the corner of Morse and Denning. Uses for Progress Point are and have been totally open. The “rescinded” OAO contained a strategic context that strongly supported park space on Progress Point. What is the strategic context in “your OAO” that supports such a use?
If you will not approve sufficient consolidated residential density within the OAO to allow park space to compliment the area as it does on Park Ave and Hannibal Square, then please open your consideration to other ways to use Progress Point. Here are a few ways to use the property for public use:
Sell part or all of Progress Point and invest the proceeds in improving Mead Garden.
Swap part or all of Progress Point for land to become city park space better suited to benefit all our residents.
Sell some or all of Progress Point and put the proceeds in the Parks Fund where it is required to be used for park uses in future years.
Sell some or all of Progress Point and put the proceeds in a new Hurricane Fund where its use is limited for hurricane response in future years.
Use part of Progress Point to house a new retail post office.
A comment on the “playhouse” idea…
Heather and Roy Speights are a great asset to our community in creating and operating the Winter Park Playhouse. Their success is the result of hard work over many years and they have created a community cultural asset. The same is proving true of the resourceful and talented Melody and Chris Cortez as they work to sustain the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts through some very difficult formative years. I hope Winter Park continues to attract this kind of dedication to cultural pursuit that so enriches our city.
These venues will not exist without the leaders who created them. Accordingly, talk of a dedicated building for “the Winter Park Playhouse” does not meet any reasonable standard for use of public assets. What may be realistic is a city owned performance venue designed to attract the creative energy and talents of people like Heather, Roy, Melody, and Chris; a venue open to all performance arts. This is a big strategic idea that requires much more thought with a clear understanding of the local market and the cost of designing, building, and maintaining such a venue, as well as a close look at the experience of other communities with such a venue. If the need for such a venue garners broad public support, there also remains a decision of where it should be located. Such a venue may better be part of a re-investment in Mead Garden than at Progress Point, for example.
Please consider the wisdom of broad strategic context in all issues and of putting considerations in a reasoned sequence.
Regards, Pete Weldon
700 Via Lombardy