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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
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.”
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
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.