City Seeks Tourism Dollars to Fill Library Funding Gaps

City Seeks Tourism Dollars to Fill Library Funding Gaps


Hoping to raise more money for the city’s planned library and events center, a group of Winter Park officials is asking Orange County for $6 million in tourism tax revenue. The focus of their pitch isn’t books, but the number of tourists the Canopy project could lure to the city.

The carefully organized group, which included Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight, pitched the project to an Orange County review committee as a tourism magnet that will fill new city hotels and help local businesses.

The public was not invited to the February 18 gathering at the County Commission chambers. While both Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel and Pete Weldon were present in the chambers, Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Greg Seidel were absent. Cooper said she was not told about it. “The only information shared with me was that one of several possible funding sources was a grant from TDT ARC. I was not told about the meeting or the presentation,” she said when questioned about her absence. Commissioner Greg Seidel stated that he had reviewed the grant application prior to the meeting and had offered his “two cents,” but has not engaged in raising funds for the project.

Canopy As Tourist Magnet

Tourism development taxes are charged on short-term rentals such as hotels, motels and AirBnb properties. Typical uses of the money permitted under state law include construction of such tourism meccas as convention centers, sports stadiums and museums. Libraries aren’t tourist draws, but the Winter Park group clearly believed a grand event center designed by a famous architect might be.

Mayor Leary opened the discussion with a power point on Sir David Adjaye, the internationally famed British architect chosen to design the project, called the Canopy. Leary touted Sir David’s knighthood by Prince William and flipped through photos of Adjaye’s many government and institutional buildings, pointing out Adjaye’s work draws visitors “from around the world.”

Adjaye Design Offers “A State Asset Open to All Classes”

Adjaye sent a specially made video in which he commented on Winter Park’s unique character. “Winter Park is an extraordinary and small community in Orlando but has extraordinary ambition with incredible leadership. . . The library and events center project came from a very rigorous study of the climate and culture.” Adjaye predicted the $40 million project would become a “. . .state asset and be open to all social classes.”

Also speaking on behalf of the city were David Odahowski, President and CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation (EBCF), and Jane Hames, a member of the newly formed Chamber of Commerce Tourism Advisory Board. Former Mayor Ken Bradley was in attendance.

Edyth Bush Foundation Donates $750K

Odahowski announced that the Edyth Bush foundation would bestow an unprecedented matching grant of $750,000 on the Canopy project. Noting that the foundation is the third largest donor in the history of Rollins College, Odahowski characterized Winter Park as “an authentic cultural mecca” that takes its role in the regional tourism industry very seriously. “The Canopy will enhance our tourist destination and put heads in beds stimulating additional hospitality options [hotels] . . . stores staying open late. . . restaurants packed with diners. . .ringing cash registers, generating sales tax revenue and attracting more tourists,” said Odahowski.

“The Canopy Events Center will be a cornerstone for a tourism strategy enhancing our ability to host larger meetings, celebrations and trainings. . .With your support the Canopy will launch the next ‘Golden Age’ of Winter Park tourism,” he said.

Welcome Mat is Out for Tourists

City Manager Randy Knight predicted the Canopy project will conservatively result in over 5,200 additional hotel stays per year and over one million dollars in hotel revenue. Currently there are three new hotels under construction and two others in the public approval process.

He predicted the Canopy will be more sought after as a wedding venue than the Farmer’s Market, given its architect’s international fame. Knight said the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which has been torn down, hosted 250-400 guests. The Canopy will have four separate spaces suitable for wedding parties. Knight stated the facility will have the capacity to host statewide conventions and he estimated 1,200 Winter Park hotel stays annually from those conventions.

Knight said it’s hard to predict just how many tourists might visit the site based on its architectural merits, but he noted that more than 30,000 visitors travel annually to Florida Southern to discover Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.

New Hotels Will Accommodate Increased Tourism

Some visitors could stay at the Alfond Inn, which now is planning a 73-room addition, Knight said. According to City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, the 110-room Hilton Garden Inn and the 120-room Spring Hill Suites by Marriott recently broke ground at Ravaudage. Three other hotels are in early stages of planning and approval. Knight stated City staff is exploring selling other city-owned properties for hotel space.

Knight noted the city’s long and close relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, which is actively recruiting tourism from Brazil and the United Kingdom. Jane Hames, who chairs the Tourism Task Force of the Winter Park Chamber said an informal Chamber study found that British residents are the largest population visiting the Chamber’s Welcome Center on Lyman Ave.

Both Knight and Leary assured the Orange County board members that the Canopy is a shovel-ready project that has “wide community support.”

Nevertheless, the Canopy project has been surrounded by debate since a $30 million bond referendum was put on the ballot in 2016 for a new library, events center and parking garage. Of the 5,411 voters, 51 percent approved the bond issue. Later that year, a group of citizens collected more than 2,000 signatures to challenge the location in Martin Luther King Park, in hopes of preserving the park’s green space. That effort failed in the courts. Recently, park patrons were furious to discover that a large number of mature trees had been removed at the site.

Although the Canopy is still in the design and development stage, Knight said a feasibility study by a professional firm shows the center will easily cover its annual expenses with a profit. Knight and Leary promised they would not seek additional operational support from the tourism revenue.

Knight displayed a chart illustrating just how important the tourism dollars are to the City’s ability to build the Canopy. Of the $40.1 million needed for construction, $28.7 million will come from the net bond issue, $5.4 million from additional community support which was not described in detail, and $6 million in tourism development money. Another potential source of funds would be the sale of the existing library property on New England Ave.

Build It & They Will Come

City leaders suggested these large numbers of tourists will generate revenue on many fronts, and the activity around the canopy will drive intense redevelopment. Mayor Leary provided an aerial view of the project, claiming it’s more than shovel ready, it is shovel active. After the project is completed, he said, the City plans to plant over 1,300-caliper-inches of trees of different species.

We’ll Know in April

According to Commissioner Greg Seidel, the project plans are at a percentage of completion “somewhere in the sixties.” Seidel explained that when the plans, including all the add-alternates, reach 80 percent completion, the Commission will have adequate information upon which to base their decisions. Seidel estimated things would come together some time in April, when the City will have nearly completed plans and will have a better idea of how much money is actually available.

To View Video of Winter Park’s Presentation, click here.

Make Way for the Wrecking Ball

Civic Center to Be Demolished This Week

Make Way for the Wrecking Ball

Controversy surrounding the city’s new library project dominated the January 28 City Commission discussions, even though it wasn’t on the agenda. This time around, criticism came from state officials, who aren’t happy with the City’s plans to build its new library and civic center at Martin Luther King Park. The state has even warned that the city could lose future grant money for parks if it doesn’t comply with the rules.

None of that is stopping the City from going full speed ahead with the project. Plans are underway to tear down the Rachel Murrah Civic Center this week and take the chainsaw to 60 trees at the park between now and April.

City Out of Compliance with State Grant Rules

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection notified the City Manager in a letter dated March 6, 2018 that the city had failed to follow the rules governing a grant it received in 1994 for improvements to Martin Luther King Park. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and several citizens pleaded unsuccessfully with commissioners to hit the pause button to resolve the issue.

Seen in this context, and taking into account the City’s failure, so far, to come up with a clear plan to bring the Canopy project back in line with the $30 Million budget approved by the voters in 2016, the decision to proceed with such haste gives one pause.

Playing the Blame Game

“There is a small group that continues to protest this project and has gone to the State and has asked the State to overturn previous State grants, once again costing the citizens of Winter Park money,” said Leary. “If we have to pay back the State . . . uh, this is a small group who are shooting people in the foot. It’s an absurd request.”

FL Department of Environmental Protection

The notification of non-compliance came from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and concerned the 1994 grant for improvements to MLK Park under the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP). The grant required the City to dedicate the park, in perpetuity, “as an outdoor recreation site for the benefit of the general public.” [emphasis added]

City Version of Deed Restriction Unacceptable to FDEP

A March 6, 2018, letter from FDEP General Counsel’s office warned that the Public Dedication recorded by the City in January 2018, “does not meet the requirements of the rule and is not acceptable to the department.” The letter went on to state, “Failure to comply with the department’s rules can result in the City being declared out of compliance and therefore ineligible for further grants from the department.”

This could affect the City’s application for a FRDAP grant for improvements to the wetlands around Howell Branch.

But Wait – There’s More

A January 16, 2019 letter from FDEP stated, “It has also come to our attention that some or all of the City’s previous land and recreation grants do not have restrictive covenants recorded for the parks funded by our grants.” In addition to MLK Park, the letter contains a list of other FRDAP grants for locations such as Lake Baldwin Park, Mead Garden, Phelps Park and the Howell Branch Preserve, requesting the City to provide copies of the declarations of restrictive covenants for each within 60 days.

To read the full text, click here.

What’s a Deed Restriction?

A FRDAP grant to the City carries with it the requirement to publicly record with Orange County a covenant restricting the park to outdoor recreation, in perpetuity.

If the City converts this dedicated land to another use, according to the January 16 FDEP letter, the City must “. . .replace the removed property with property of similar size and value and replace any facilities (such as the walking trails around the current civic center that were part of the FRDAP grant) that will be removed by the new construction.”

Citizens Urge Caution

During public comment, several citizens urged the Commissioners to move cautiously with their demolition plans until the way forward is clearer.

“I see a tendency by the City to insulate itself from opposing views and from citizen input,” began Beth Hall. She pointed out that the original Library Task Force had considered multiple sites for the new library, MLK Park among them. “But I don’t see where the FRDAP grant was pointed out or considered by the Task Force,” she said. “Thus a major restriction on the viability of the site was ignored.” Hall pointed out that the City had made no attempt to inform voters of this issue at the time of the bond referendum.

Who Knew about the Grant?

In a January 30 email responding to a public records request from Beth Hall, City Clerk Cindy Bonham confirmed the City has no records of communications or materials about the MLK Park FRDAP grant being provided to the Library Task Force, to the Commission, to the Planning & Zoning Board, the Library Board, the Library Staff or to the trial court that heard the bond validation suit.

Road Not Taken

Referring to the FDEP requirement to replace all converted lands with land of similar value, Hall asked the Commission to remember the bowling alley property. “That it is gone is a failure of long-term vision and strategic thinking,” she said. “Maybe hearing other voices would have taken us another way, but we will never know, for that was the road not taken.”

When is a Canopy Not a Canopy?


Charley Williams displayed the City’s tree demolition legend, which identifies more than 60 trees that will fall victim to the chainsaw this spring. He suggested the City Communications Department might keep citizens abreast of what will transpire in MLK Park. He showed before and after pictures of mature live oaks that were removed January 26 to make way for the Civic Center demolition.

Williams urged Winter Park to “show some leadership” by heeding the advice of the Winter Park Forestry department to save mature specimen trees by root pruning and moving them to safety within the park. He pointed out that other cities have done this and that there are Winter Park residents ready and willing to privately fund the project. “We’ve already named it the Canopy,” said Williams. “Now I think we ought to walk the walk.”

‘We Keep Whittling Away Amenities While the Price Goes Up’

Kim Allen enumerated ways in which the Canopy project has changed since it started in 2016. The square footage of the library is significantly reduced. Elements of the buildings, like the porte cochere at the entrance, have either been eliminated or declared ‘alternatives,’ which the City can build only if it raises additional money. The $30 Million budget cannot accommodate many elements that would seem integral to the success of the project.

Sarah Sprinkel: “It Makes Me Mad”

In her closing comments, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel decried having what she called “an issue that some people in this community have created for us.”

Cooper reiterated her suggestion to put the matter of the grants on the City Manager’s report so that people could see periodic updates of how the City is working through the issue. Cooper’s desire for this kind of transparency was not supported by her fellow Commissioners.

Leary: “It Just Seems to be One Thing After Another”

In his concluding remarks, Mayor Leary said, “Whether it’s trees outside, or whether it’s water . . . I mean, it’s one thing after another.”

Budget Blows a Hole in the Canopy

Project Still Doesn’t Fit the Budget

Budget Blows a Hole in the Canopy

News Flash

A small item on the City Manager’s Report at the January 14 Commission meeting stated, “Library Design: Project pricing came back on design development drawings and the project is over budget.”

Getting the Project Back to the Level It Should Be

Commissioner Greg Seidel asked City Manager Randy Knight to elaborate. “Staff continues to work with the design team,” said Knight, “trying to bring the project in on the budget the Commission’s adopted. . . . Once we get the project to the level it should be,” Knight said, “I’ll be bringing [the design] back to the City Commission . . . along with some add-alt opportunities” so the Commission can decide if they will try to fund those and, if so, how.

Should We Wait to Demolish the Murrah Civic Center?

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper attempted to make a motion to delay demolition of the Rachel Murrah Civic Center and removal of surrounding trees until the Commission has a clearer idea of how they are moving forward with the Canopy project. Cooper was, however, ruled out of order by Mayor Steve Leary because, he said, the item was not on the agenda as an action item and had not been publicly noticed.

‘Small Group of Citizens Increased Costs’

Leary went on to state, “The only increased cost to taxpayers so far has been the lawsuit brought against the taxpayers and the voters in the city by a small group. That has cost us in legal bills; that has cost us in delays. So, additional monies that must be spent to move this forward, as of today, have not been due to overages because we’re still working through the budget.”

Citizens Sought to Prevent Library Location in MLK Park

Leary was referring to the Save Our Library WP PAC’s 2016 petition drive to prevent the new library from being located in Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. The PAC gathered 2,300 voters’ signatures in what was supposed to be a Citizens’ Initiative, which has no deadline. The City Clerk declared the petitions “insufficient,” insisting they constituted “reconsideration of a referendum,” for which the deadline had passed. The court upheld the City, and the library location was never put to a vote. According to the City Manager, the lawsuit cost the City $32,878 – slightly less than it would have cost to put the matter of location to a vote of the people.

Bond Validation Suit – ‘A Wise Investment’

The City also spent $168,881 on a Bond Validation Suit to protect the City from future legal challenge regarding the bond issue. The successful Bond Validation Suit had the added advantage of allowing the bonds to be sold at a more favorable rate. According to an attorney who was close to the situation, who asked not to be identified, “Any expenditures associated with the bond validation will be recovered over the life of the bonds and represents a wise investment on the part of the City.”

So, What Do We Know Now about Projected Costs for the Canopy?

A November 2018 email from City Clerk Cindy Bonham summarizes spending and funding sources on the Library-Event Center as of September 30, 2018.

On Nov 9, 2018, at 2:13 PM, Cindy Bonham <CBonham@cityofwinterpark.org> wrote:

Current Cost Projections

 


In a January 16 email to the Voice, City Manager Knight sent the most current figures available at that date which, he cautioned, are nowhere near final. “At the stage this spreadsheet was developed the base project would be 12.5 percent above budget,” he wrote. The “base project” he refers to is the library-event center without a single one of the add alternates – including the porte cochere at the entrance.

“Once the design team has managed to bring the cost of the base project to within budget,” wrote Knight, “we will present the Commission a list of add alternates that we think they may wish to consider along with potential ways to fund those alternates.”

Project Status – Only the Numbers Will Change

While Knight’s numbers will definitely change, the information he provided presents a good picture of the shape of the project and where each element now stands.

Is $30 Million Enough?

From these numbers, it would appear the original $30M budget, which was supposed to include a comfortable cushion, barely covers two of the three items on the March 15, 2016 ballot, which called for a library, events center and associated parking structure.

The associated parking structure has morphed into expanded surface parking on and around MLK Park. The library has gone from 50,000 square feet to a little over 34,000 square feet. The event center will be slightly larger than the current Civic Center, estimated at 12,600 square feet.

The enhancements envisioned for the project, such as the porte cochere at the entrance, the exterior amphitheater, the interior raked auditorium and the rooftop venue stand to shoot the budget into the stratosphere, adding between $10 and $14 Million to the cost of a $30 Million project.

The Real Work Begins

To bring this Canopy dream to fruition will take some serious compromise and fundraising of mythic proportion.

How Would You Vote on the WP Library Today?

How Would You Vote on the WP Library Today?

Since the Library Bond Referendum, which called for a “new library and events center consisting of library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure, and improvements incidental thereto, and the demolition of the existing civic center” was passed in March 2016, plans for the facilities seem to have morphed into something slightly different than the voters might have envisioned in 2016.

The Voice would like to know how its readers feel about the library’s evolution into the current project, The Canopy. By answering the questions below, you will let us know how you regard the project and you will also see how your neighbors are feeling about it.

Click the link below to vote.

Library Plan Goes Forward

Library Plan Goes Forward

City commissioners charged ahead this week with final approval of the site plan for their new library and civic center, despite an advisory board’s concerns.

Earlier this month, the city’s planning and zoning board opted for only preliminary approval of the project because unanswered questions remained, especially about stormwater drainage.

The 4-1 vote on Monday to approve the site plan included Commissioner Greg Seidel, a civil engineer, in the majority. He said he reviewed the stormwater plan and “didn’t see any deal breakers.” Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who raised questions about the cost of dealing with some of the project’s risks, voted against the site plan.

Commissioners did endorse one recommendation from their advisory board: They agreed to consider tearing down the Lake Island Hall recreation building to add 36 more parking places to the site plan.

Seidel’s support came with two suggestions that were not acted upon. First, he wanted the city to pre-treat the stormwater before it pours into the lake. At the very least, he said, the city should remove trash from the drainage. “It’s not that expensive.” Mayor Steve Leary declined to endorse the idea but didn’t rule it out. “I’d want to know how much that would cost,” Leary said.

Second, Seidel proposed putting a parking garage at the southwest corner of the site where a parking lot is planned, using non-library funds to build it. He noted that a garage there wouldn’t interfere with the look of the two new buildings and could serve area businesses and park users as well. More importantly, he said, it would make sense to build the garage with CRA funds intended for the redevelopment of the central business district. Commissioners were not enthused. “The parking issue won’t be resolved until we have experience with the facilities,” Commissioner Pete Weldon said.

Commissioners felt comfortable ignoring their advisory board after city Planning Manager Jeff Briggs said that board was “not as familiar” with the site-plan issues as city commissioners were. “There doesn’t appear to be a lot of logic bringing it back” to the board after the Saint Johns River Water Management District reviews it, Briggs said. The district in the next few weeks will decide whether to permit the city’s proposal to channel stormwater overflow from Lake Mendsen into Lake Rose, the site of the city’s huge 1981 sinkhole.

The total cost of many elements of the site plan remain unknown. That’s not unusual for developers, but the city lacks deep pockets for the project. Unknowns include, for example: the cost of tearing down the recreation building; the cost of trying to save even a few of the 63 protected trees targeted for removal; the cost of stormwater pretreatment; and the cost of removing more muck if necessary. The placement of the library and civic center had to be shifted after soil borings disclosed deep levels of muck on the site.
Cooper asked if the city has budgeted enough to deal with all the risks. “I’m fine accepting the fact that we can fix it with money. The question is how much [money] and should we?” Other commissioners did not share her concerns. If more costs arise, Weldon said, “trade-offs will have to be made,” as happens to “any developer.”

WPPL Shifts Gears - Focus on Fundraising

Shawn Shaffer Resigns, Interim E.D. Steps In

WPPL Shifts Gears – Focus on Fundraising

Shawn Shaffer has left her position as Winter Park Public Library Executive Director effective August 3. Consultant Cynthia Wood will step in as interim executive. director while the Library Board of Trustees engages in a nation-wide search for Shaffer’s replacement.

Cynthia Wood Named Interim E.D.

Cynthia Wood was Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Rollins from 2002 until 2008. In 2009, she formed a consulting firm, Cynthia Wood, Philanthropy Partner LLC. She has guided various organizations in capital and programmed fundraising readiness, strategic planning and establishing sustainable fundraising systems.

Among Wood’s clients was the Bach Festival Society. Bach Festival Executive Director Betsy Gwinn described Wood’s work as Development Consultant for the Bach Festival Society’s 75th Anniversary campaign. “Cynthia worked with Board and staff members to develop a strategic fund raising campaign,” wrote Gwinn. “The Society has seen a tremendous difference in its development efforts under her guidance.”

Funding Pro Minana Hall Joins Team

The Library Trustees have also engaged Minana Hall as full-time capital and annual development professional. Hall brings 25 years of experience changing the development face of various institutions such as the University of Tampa, the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg and UCF. She has experience working with foundations and volunteer boards to develop major and planned gifts and annual giving.

Sabrina Bernat to Oversee Daily Operations

Sabrina Bernat, who was Shawn Shaffer’s assistant director, will oversee day-to-day library operations. Since Bernat has been involved with the library design team from the outset, she provides continuity and operational expertise.

A representative of the Library Board of Trustees issued the following statement.
“The board is extremely grateful for Shawn’s many contributions to the organization since she joined it five years ago. With the new facility comes new responsibility for fundraising and related initiatives. We have redefined the leadership skills needed to fulfill the new responsibilities and expectations. The library board is excited about our future library and all that it can mean for Winter Park. The board looks forward with enthusiasm to its role in shaping the future of this important institution.”

“The Canopy”

As a Brand, Will That Cover It?

“The Canopy”

Discussion of the new library-event center at Monday night’s May 14 Commission meeting seems to have raised more questions than answers.

How much will the library-event center cost?

After a dizzying hour-long discussion of design and building costs and possible sources of revenue, City Manager Randy Knight confirmed the total buildout of the Adjaye-designed library and event center, with all the add-alternates – the raked auditorium, the outdoor amphitheater, the porte cochere covering the entrance and a roof-top venue for the event center – will cost $37 million.

The Commission voted to proceed with the raked auditorium, the outdoor amphitheater and the porte cochere. While they did not approve the roof-top venue buildout, they voted to engineer the event center structure so the venue can be added at a later date. There is still no parking structure in the budget – or in the plans.

What About Parking?

Commissioner Cooper pointed out that everything she had read in the agenda packet about the rooftop venue talked about “doubling the amount of opportunity” to lease out the facility. “And what I would say to all of you,” she said addressing the other Commissioners, “the problem we have not resolved is parking. And for us to add on another venue . . . for me parking is a real problem.”

What about Operations & Maintenance?

Cooper also pointed out that, so far, there has been no move to fund the operation and maintenance of the facility. Mayor Leary had suggested that some funds could come from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and Cooper pointed out that CRA funds could be used both for parking and for operations and maintenance. Apparently the City is also seeking to raise money from state and county tourist development agencies.

Where Will We Get the Extra Money?

To complete the components that have been approved, the City is still around $7 million short, according to Jim Russel of Pizzuti Solutions. That means additional fund raising has become a necessity.

What Shall We Call It?

Majority thought from the dais, with Mayor Leary in the vanguard, was that if you have to raise money to build it, you must first brand it.

Former Commissioner Tom McMacken kicked off the branding discussion. He spoke as a member of the current Library Task Force – which has taken on the task of creating a brand to use in the fund raising effort. Task Force members include Sam Stark, Leslie O’Shaughnessy and McMacken, who also serves on the Library Board of Trustees.

“When we go out to the public to raise money,” said McMacken, “what we hear is ‘Don’t bring us the old library.’” McMacken stated that a brand is so important that the Library Board of Trustees has put its current fundraising activity on hold until the City has agreed upon a brand.

Canopy

McMacken explained that the Library Task Force had worked with Mark Calvert of Winter Park-based Evolve Design Group to come up with the brand “Canopy,” which was meant to encompass the new library, the event center and the entire campus upon which the facility will sit within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. The Task Force proposed the various locations would be styled as ‘The Library at the Canopy,’ ‘The Event Center at the Canopy,’ and ‘MLK Park at the Canopy.’

Not So Fast, Says Sprinkel

The notion of including Martin Luther King, Jr. Park under the rubric of the Canopy drew immediate resistance from Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, who very clearly did not want to rename the park. She said she would agree to assigning the name ‘Canopy’ to the library, event center and the porte cochere that joins the two buildings, but was firm that nothing should happen to diminish the identity of Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

Mayor Steve Leary hastened to reassure Commissioner Sprinkel that renaming MLK Park was never the intent, but insisted, “We need a branding, something we can take out there to people to explain what this is.”

Why Not the ‘Winter Park’ Brand?

Commissioner Cooper pointed out that ‘Winter Park’ itself “is an already mature brand that is recognized as excellent.” She suggested the work of the Task Force might not yet be complete, and that before reaching a final decision they would be well-advised to seek further input from people on the name ‘Canopy’ and the accompanying branding language.

How Does ‘Canopy’ Relate to the Library?

“I’m wondering,” said Cooper, “why the recommendation [Canopy] is so generic. I don’t see how it relates to learning, knowledge, reading, education, opportunity, or intellectual curiosity – all qualities associated with a public library. What would differentiate it from any other mixed-use development – in Winter Park or elsewhere?

“I could see where ‘Canopy’ conveys a sense of inclusion . . . one-stop shopping, maybe – but not wonder and learning. That doesn’t resonate with me.”

Library and Event Center Are Now ‘The Canopy’

Despite reservations about brand confusion and questionable appropriateness expressed in citizen comments following the Commissioners’ deliberation, the Commission voted 3-2 to name the entire complex designed by British architect David Adjaye “The Canopy.” Leary, Sprinkel and Seidel supported the motion. Dissenting votes were cast by Cooper and Weldon.

Empty Promises

New Library: Bait-&-Switch?

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Empty Promises

Guest Columnist Peter Knowles Gottfried

Have you ever gone to a car dealership to investigate an incredibly good deal only to realize the “deal” really is too good to be true? Or perhaps you were enticed by an ad for a condo with water view only to find that “water” was a retention pond. This is how folks who voted for the proposed “Library-Event Center” must be feeling.

We were promised a beautiful 50,000 square foot Library and new Event Center at the corner of Harper Avenue and Morse Boulevard overlooking Lake Mendsen. We also voted for a parking structure that would adequately service both the new library and the event center. And finally, City literature told us, “The new library, event center and garage footprint will require less than 1percent of additional open space” within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

As it develops, however, the situation becomes more and more like being the customer at the car dealership anticipating a shiny new Highlander and being offered a used Yaris instead.

The 50,000 Square Foot Promise.

Let’s begin with the library campaign to win voter approval for a $30 million bond issue for the demolition of the existing Civic Center and the construction of the new library-event center and parking structure. Just about every piece of literature sent to voters spoke of the need for more library space, overcrowding in the youth section and insufficient computer lab space.

One election mailer asked, “What do you do when Winter Park’s Library … has to remove children’s books, even favorites, every time a new book arrives? …doesn’t have enough computers or digital labs? …can’t accommodate emergency rescue equipment above the first floor? …has no space for after-school tutoring rooms?”

Another mailer claimed, “Our children continue to lose out on learning opportunities and materials because of inadequate space.”

Grandma Promise

Grandparents, seniors, and adults will get “fully equipped technology labs with classes for seniors, students and entrepreneurs.” Another mailer promised, “Expanded and climate-controlled history center with exhibit space, genealogy lab and digitization to preserve our shared history.”

It is no wonder that the Library Board, the Commission and Citizens were excited about a new 50,000 square foot library. A letter from the then President of the Winter Park Library Board of Trustees to voters stated that the library would provide early childhood literacy areas, tutoring rooms, digital media labs, make the library safer, and provide for a new parking facility.

Where Did We Get 50,000 Sq.Ft?

Where did the “50,000-square-foot” number for the library appear? The Library Task Force, a committee authorized by the City Commission to come up with recommendations for the new library, stated in their final report that the estimated size of the library was 50,000 square feet, with the existing library at 33,742 square feet. We were getting an additional 16,206 square feet, a significant increase by any measure.

Following that, an email blast from the “yes for winter park library” Political Action Committee (PAC) clearly stated the proposed library was to be 50,000 square feet. That same email stated there would also be a one-story, 220-space parking deck.

The Winter Park Library staff sent an email to “Friends, Neighbors and Patrons” stating that the library will be 50,000 square feet and include a one-story parking deck for 220 cars. And finally, the City issued a Request for Qualifications for Library Design Consultant Services which clearly stated that the project will include “a new 240-space (sic) parking garage, a new 50,000 square foot library . . . .”

Honey, They Shrunk the Library

It must be a disappointment to the Library friends, neighbors and patrons to find that the new library will be barely larger than the existing library. Depending on whose numbers you use, we may be getting 867 or 991 additional square feet for a new library that everyone thought would provide significantly more space. The architect says the new library will be 34,661 square feet. Pizutti, the City’s program manager, says 34,785 square feet.

Parking Structure Promise

The reference to a parking structure is in the ballot language. The ballot clearly stated that $30 million in general obligation bonds were to be issued for the “purpose of financing the Winter Park Library and Event Center to include library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure, and improvements….” [emphasis added]

The City website shows the new plans for a library-event center with surface lots spread throughout MLK Park, including parking spaces at the community playground off Denning Drive.

Certificate Concerning Official Statement

On June 1, 2017 Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight and Finance Director Wes Hamil signed the Certificate Concerning Official Statement attesting to the truthfulness of statements made in the May 8, 2017 Bond Resolution.

The execution and delivery of this Official Statement has been duly authorized and approved by the City. At the time of delivery of the Bonds, the City will furnish a certificate to the effect that nothing has come to its attention which would lead to believe that the Official Statement as of its date and as of delivery of the Bonds, contains an untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact which should be included herein for the purpose for which the Official Statement is intended to be used, or which is necessary to make the statements contained herein, in light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading.”

Wikipedia defines parking structure as, “A parking garage also called a multistory, parking structure, parking ramp, parking building, parking deck or indoor parking, a building designed for car parking . . . .”

Now the Commission has decided that a series of surface lots will take the place of the parking structure called for on the ballot. How might the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board regard some of these directives by the Commission regarding the new Library and Event Center?

Footprint-Will-Use-Less-Than-1-Percent-of Park-Land Promise

One of the documents circulated by the City and the Winter Park Library included a page that stated, “The total area of the new library, civic center, and garage “footprint” will require less than 1 percent of additional open space above the area where the existing parking lot and Civic Center now exist.”

A review of the site plan for the new library-event center and parking shows considerably more space taken than the 1 percent promised. In fact, the new facility is approximately 15 percent of the total MLK Park’s 26.8 acres, or about 8 percent of the total park in excess of the footprint of the existing Civic Center. Eight percent is significantly more green space lost than the 1 percent promised.

Footprint of New Library/Event Center and Surface Parking.

Shortly after voters approved the library/event center in the spring of 2016, a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed location at MLK Park. No location had been specified in the ballot language.

The Judge in that case ruled that the ancillary documents provided prior to the election – mailers from the Library PAC, emails from the City, Library web pages and presentations by various committees — would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the library was to be built at MLK Park.

The same reasoning can be applied now. The voting public can reasonably conclude the City will build a 50,000 square foot library and event center, and an associated parking structure.

Winter Park voters have the right to question these un-kept promises and to decide if they are happy with the outcome. You can let your elected representatives know they might have some explaining to do by writing them at mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org

Peter Knowles Gottfried is an environmental scientist who drew up one of the first plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in 1985. He was a Winter Park Commissioner 1986 to 1996, and then served on the Planning & Zoning Commission from 2011 to 2017.

Why, Oh Why?

On the Branding of the Winter Park Library

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Why, Oh Why?

Guest Columnist Michael Perelman

On March 26, 2018, the concept of creating a unique brand for the to-be-developed new Library and Events Center was brought to the Winter Park Commission. This concept arose from the Library and Events Center Task Force based on a recommendation by Sam Stark at the January 24, 2018 meeting of that Task Force. The recommendation presented was to use ‘The Canopy’ as the brand; this, is in spite of there being a local business already using that brand – the Canopy Café’.

The Commission made no determination at that meeting, but asked that the item be brought back with some style guides. This occurred on April 9 when a number of visuals were presented. These proposals included:

Winter Park Library at the Canopy 
The Venue at the Canopy
Rollin’s Softball at the Canopy
MLK Jr Park at the Canopy

On April 09, the Commission did not take a position, though Commissioner Seidel did highlight a concern about a ‘potential annexation’ of MLK Park.’ The proposal was tabled for further discussion at the next Commission meeting.

The topic did not appear on the agenda of the April 23 meeting; but, a number of members of the public (including myself) did raise the topic during the Citizen Comments part of the agenda. None spoke in favor of the branding concept; all were opposed.

To my mind, it is unclear why these new structures demand a unique brand. We already have a strong brand – Winter Park! Why must this be undermined? And, to suggest that MLK Park, and everything in it, should be a subset of the Canopy is to add insult to injury!

What we need is a ‘Winter Park Library,’ and a ‘Winter Park Events Center.’ These names are self-explanatory, and reflect our values as a community.

What’s in a Name?

Who Gets to Choose?

What’s in a Name?

The January 22nd Commission meeting concluded with a lively discussion about the library-event center. At issue was, what do we call it? And, more importantly, who gets to decide?

Naming Rights – Whose Right?

On the agenda that night was an ordinance and accompanying policy language that bestowed the privilege of granting naming rights upon the Mayor and City Manager. The Mayor and Commissioners Peter Weldon and Greg Seidel thought that was okay, but Cooper and Sprinkel weren’t having any of it. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel stated that she was affronted by the notion that decision-making authority would rest anywhere besides with the Commission as a whole.

Cooper’s Compromise

After several attempts, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was able to get support for an amendment to the policy, giving the final decision-making authority to the Commission for naming the library building in its entirety, the event center building in its entirety, and the complex as a whole.

The ‘City,’ for which read, City staff in consultation with the Mayor and/or the Winter Park Library Association, may still decide naming rights for a room or an amenity or a portion of the facility, based on the size of the donation and the wishes of the donor.

Library Task Force Wants Naming Rights, Too

Not 48 hours later, Tom McMacken, Leslie O’Shaughnessy and Sam Stark gathered early Wednesday morning at City Hall for a meeting of the Library Task Force (LTF). There, too, the discussion included parking (there’s not enough of it), and naming – except here it was called branding.

The difference, apparently, lies in the purpose to which the language is put. If an entity tasked with raising funds is attempting to attract substantial donors, the name is a brand – something to be sold to the highest bidder. Once the highest bidder has bought the brand and the check has cleared, she or he gets to name the thing for which they’ve paid.

“A Piece of White Toast”

Sam Stark observed that the name ‘Library-Event Center’ was about as exciting as a piece of white toast. “At some point, we need to name this thing,” said Stark. “We need to name it, brand it, and then sell it.”

Forming a Campus

Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner pointed out that the community is anxious to see the park upgrades and the new library-event center treated as a single project. Feedback indicates community desire for the Commission to structure their discussions along those lines. Taking their cue from Neuner’s suggestion, the LTF discussion began to refer to the park with its upgrades and the library-event center project as a cohesive whole – a campus.

Creating a Brand

The Task Force entertained a motion to create a Branding Task Force, but since only the Commission can create a Task Force, they settled for a Branding Subcommittee of the Library Task Force. The Subcommittee would be comprised of representatives from the Parks & Recreation Department, the Library, the LTF and City staff. Representing the LTF would be Sam Stark, and representing the City will probably be Communications Director Clarissa Howard.

The motion to create the Branding Subcommittee will appear on the February 12 Commission meeting agenda to receive the Commission’s approval. Members of the Subcommittee will be identified at that meeting.

Project Will Be Branded by Spring

The LTF plans for the Subcommittee to report out at the April 9 Commission meeting with a brand name. It will be up to the Subcommittee to hammer out the most appropriate approach and to determine how to brand the project, and/or the buildings, and/or the entire campus.

When the branding is successful — and there is no reason to believe it won’t be — then the Library-Event Center will finally get a Name.