Please Create Value for Winter Park Residents

The city commission will soon be voting on a proposed lease of the city owned former library building at 460 E New England Ave. The lease terms discussed are 30 years at $250,000 per year for use primarily as office space, this is roughly 2 to 5 times less than tax-payers should be receiving for the property, and neighbors will be severely impacted by increased traffic. The existing building is 33,000 square feet and the property has 68 parking spaces, while our code requires 132 parking spaces for office use.

The commission’s request for proposal for the old library property was based on a “vision” of a “vibrant location for commerce and entrepreneurship while also supporting traditional office space elements.” This vision is unrealistic given parking limitations and distance from Park Ave/Central Park. Importantly, the present value of prospective lease payments to the city values the property at only about $4 million.

This lease proposal grossly undervalues the property, shortchanging Winter Park residents. Please tell the commission to stop pursuing this lease and to evaluate alternative uses of our property to generate value for Winter Park residents. You can reach the commission here: [email protected].

My suggestions follow.

Alternative 1: Sell the property.

The 1.75 acre property is zoned R4, permitting up to 43 condominiums with no variances. This is a lower impact use compared to office space, is 100% compatible with the adjacent hotel and Residences condominium, and would be a social and financial winner for the city. Given recent condominium market values adjacent to and across the street from the old library, the assessed value is likely to exceed $30 million, making our land worth about $9 million (a 2019 appraisal suggests a $9 million land value if used for luxury condominiums). If the city would allow the same variances as the adjacent hotel and the Residences condominiums, the total value would likely exceed $100 million, with the land worth over $20 million to Winter Park residents.

Alternative 2: Use the property as City Hall.

As recommended by the Old Library Re-use Task Force, the best use of the old library is as a replacement for the current City Hall. This will make the current City Hall property available to be leased for redevelopment, realizing far greater rental income than leasing the old library, while realistically fulfilling the commission’s vision to create a “vibrant location for commerce and entrepreneurship while also supporting traditional office space elements.” For perspective, the three story Truist Bank Center and parking structure across Park Ave from the current City Hall are assessed at $30 million and are the same size as the current City Hall property at 2.8 acres. The current City Hall property would be worth much more than $30 million with mixed uses including luxury condominiums. Also, a parking structure would further support Park Avenue retailers and restaurants. Note that the commission can define uses and control any redevelopment.

Again, please tell the commission to stop pursuing a lease for the old library and to fully evaluate alternatives uses for both the old library and the existing City Hall properties. Tell them to create value, not destroy it. You can reach the commission here: [email protected]cityofwinterpark.org.