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.
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.
When the Library-Event Center Concept Was Unveiled
On the evening of November 1, Sir David Adjaye, lead architect on the library-event center, revealed his conceptual design before a capacity crowd in the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which the new building will eventually replace.
Sir David’s presentation was broadcast live via several media outlets, and a video recording of the presentation is still available on the City Website.
This being Winter Park, now that most people have seen it, everyone has an opinion about it. Impressions of Adjaye’s concept offered here by two of our readers broadly reflect the views of our citizens. If your views differ, we invite you to weigh in.
While everyone’s view matters, the views that matter most will be those of the Commissioners. They will decide on Monday, November 13, whether or not we move forward with the concept as proposed.
If the City adopts the concept, Commissioners and City staff must determine how to accomplish the task within the confines of the site and the budget. If the City decides to go another direction, the Commission will assume the responsibility for guiding us down that path, as well. The Commission’s task is not an easy one.
In Praise of Adjaye’s Design
Guest Columnist Beth Hall
I was prepared to dislike the design proposal from Sir David Adjaye and his colleagues. Aside from his Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., I had seen little from him that I could appreciate or to which I could relate. But when I heard his presentation and saw his concept for Winter Park, I was surprised to the upside. Every time I review the slides and the various elements of the presentation, I like it more.
What is presented here is my perception of the design concept. What is not presented here is a defense for the park location or for the $30 million budget. The bond referendum passed. The issues have been litigated, in the court system as well as in the court of public opinion. Now, we must move on.
What I see in Sir David’s concept are deceptively simple, yet uniquely appropriate, shelters to hold all of the activities and all of the people which will occupy them for years to come. I see a design which bears no time stamp. In the words of Raymond Loewy, “Good design does not become obsolete.”
The structures acknowledge their placement in a lovely park with water views. They take maximum advantage of these, even including a stage at the water’s edge, designed to make the most of the slope to the water. One enters from Morse Blvd. at ground level and advances onto the plaza and into a vantage point from which to survey the park and green space beyond.
I would be very surprised if everyone embraced the concept Sir David showed us. This speaks more to his artistry than it does to the amount of time he did or did not spend in Winter Park.
The winning aspects of the design are many — the column-less, ultra-flexible interior space, the inspired roof line that provides both rain and sun protection, the expansive windows that function to bring the outside in while fostering line-of-sight-contact among users of all spaces, and the thoughtful consideration of the prevailing winds in placing the structures.
Weather control is not possible at the current library any more than it will be at the new one, but Adjaye tried his best to mitigate it. The summer and winter solstices found their way into his renderings. Sun and warmth will be allowed to penetrate most deeply in winter, far less in summer when the roof line creates an angled barrier.
Low maintenance yet highly versatile concrete and glass comprise the exterior makeup of the buildings. The massive glass panes are slanted. Observe any air control tower and some department store windows to recognize this is done to maximize visibility and reduce glare. I suspect it will also help with heat reduction.
The commission must thoroughly explore this before they sign off. Folks have expressed a concern that this glass will turn the library into a massive oven under the Florida sun. I doubt Sir Adjaye just forgot Florida is a subtropical hot environment, but heating and cooling costs will matter.
I am struck by the playfulness of the design and the lightness of feel. It makes me think of parachutes. Adjaye said he hoped it felt like one had placed a “perfect tent” in this lovely place.
It’s true. There is no building in Winter Park that looks like this. Still, there are familiar elements. I think it can belong.
Against the backdrop of this inspiring design, talk of cost over-runs, storm water management and parking issues have reared their ugly heads. We are at a cross roads.
Our Commissioners face a difficult decision.
Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners
By Guest Columnist William Deuchler
Thank you for scheduling the special meeting to allow the public a first glimpse of the conceptual design for the new Library and Civic Center. It was helpful and informative, but also very disappointing to me.
During the first couple of minutes of Sir David’s talk, I thought that just maybe we might have a chance for a design that would truly add to the character of Winter Park. He talked about the unique ecology of Florida. He pointed to our history and some of the architectural history of our town. Although Sir David spoke of how those things would influence his design, when the design was unveiled, I saw no reference either to our history or to our unique setting.
Consider this if you will. What do people say is so charming about our town after a first visit? I believe the answer is, clearly, Park Avenue. And what is so charming about Park Avenue? People love the historic character of the buildings, the inviting human scale of the streetscape and the understated elegance which is, at the same time, modern and highly functional.
Now, what is the one building that is conspicuously out of character with the rest of Park Avenue? That would be City Hall, a contemporary, mid-century modern building. City Hall is a “statement” building that shouts, “I’m different, I want to be noticed for myself.”
Do we really want another “statement” civic building? It will certainly be the most significant and visible project in the general downtown area. It may also be the LAST and largest civic building built in Winter Park — at least until the current City Hall is renovated.
Why not have a legacy building that is consistent with the character of Winter Park? Even Disney knew that you don’t build a Tomorrow Land structure on Main Street.
I also have reservations about the proposed design from a practical perspective — in particular, the requirement for exterior transit and the amount of glass used in the concept. The fact that, to enter the Library or Event Center, one would have to walk outside after being let off is silly for our climate. Anyone who has been caught in one of our summer rainstorms knows that if you are outside, you are going to get wet. It’s hot in Florida most of the year. People prefer to get out of the sun and into air conditioning as quickly as possible.
I doubt if the plaza areas Adjaye envisions would be used more than three to four months per year. Even when the weather is cool, the Florida sun reflecting off those expansive glass windows will likely make the ‘Belvedere’ unbearable.
Turning to the interior spaces, just ask anyone who lost trees in the hurricane what happened to the temperature of their home. Unless you have a tree canopy above that building, it is going to be one big furnace on the inside, no matter how much engineering goes into those elegantly canted sides – this is Florida!
I urge the Commission to vote NO to the conceptual design as presented. It will be painful, but there’s still time to cut our losses, thank Sir David for his effort, and get an architect who isn’t going to create “Leary’s Folly,” someone who will design a building that really does reflect our #1 value of, “Honor our historic and cultural features throughout Winter Park.”
We, the taxpayers, are going to spend 30 million of our tax dollars on this project. It’s worth taking the time to get this project right.
Architect Sir David Adjaye will present his long awaited conceptual design of the new Winter Park Library & Event Center.
Wednesday, Nov 1, 5:30 to 7:30 pm Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center
1050 W. Morse Blvd.
The event will be a special meeting of the Winter Park City Commission. Mayor Steve Leary will open the meeting and introduce members of the library-event center design team, which will feature lead architect Sir David Adjaye. Public input will follow the formal presentations.
Library-Event Center Design Team
The design team assembled for this project are Pizzuti Solutions, the Owner’s Representative that will work with City staff to manage the project, budget and schedule; HuntonBrady Architects, which will develop the signature architectural design in partnership with Adjaye Associates; and the construction management team, which will consist of Brasfield & Gorrie and Lamm & Company.
Sir David Adjaye
Sir David Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and named one of 2017’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. His firm is known for its innovative approach to library design. Adjaye’s projects include the award-winning Idea Stores in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture, which opened September 2016 in Washington, D.C.
One week ago, the Winter Park City Commission voted 3-2 to move forward with the sale of a gateway property contiguous to one of the city’s benchmark parks: MLK Park, future site of the new Library/Events Center complex. The 1.5 acre parcel, known as the Bowling Alley property, could have become a functional green space entranceway to our city. But a gateway argument did not capture this Commission’s imagination.
Illustration Courtesy of Michael Planning
Citizens are now left with serious questions about how all our expensive studies, workshops and summary reports can come together to form a cohesive plan for parks, ball fields, green space, partnerships, trails and connectivity, supported with the necessary implementation budget.
Our Parks Masterplan (2008 Wade-Trim) is now 10 years out of date. This is the document which should be guiding our next steps, not only with current decisions surrounding MLK Park, but all our future parks discussions. First things first. Let’s hope the City Commission adopts a budget for this badly needed roadmap (estimate: $120,000) and expedites implementation. We are coming late to this party.
Other questions which merit attention: Will Winter Park have a “Great Park” one day? Where is that plan? What is the vision? What green space parcels has the City acquired in the past 2 years? 4 years? 6 years? Are we keeping pace with need and more importantly, with our required 10 acres of park space/per 1,000 resident formula, now that our population has reached 30,000?
The 2008 Parks Masterplan states that “seventy-nine (79) acres of additional parkland are required by 2028 (note: that’s in 10 years) to meet existing and projected demand for parks and recreational facilities” (Recommendation 3.1).
Where will this new park land come from? At what price?
According to Wade-Trim, “The estimated cost to meet projected demand for parkland by 2028 is $41.3 million. This would require approximately $13.1 million of land acquisition every 5 years, or approximately $2.6 million annually.” (Section 7.2, Estimated Costs Associated with Projected Demand)
The report also highlights an 8 multi-purpose playing field deficit for our children by 2028. (Recommended Action 3.4)
And let’s not forget this recommendation. “City of Winter Park Parks and Recreation Masterplan should be updated at least every 5 years to reflect any shift in development trends and desires of the community.” (Recommended Action Step 3.5)
It would appear that we are making decisions in a vacuum. The budget for the MLK Park future usage exercise with GAI consultants is in the range of $50,000 in CRA monies. Yet there is apparently no cross-reference with our own Winter Park Parks Masterplan needs and capacity issues, because it is 10 years out of date.
Interesting as well, our Winter Park Vision plan was submitted on June 9, 2016, and has been sitting on a shelf for the past year. Why pay $200,000 for a plan we are not going to fund or implement? Are these exercises meant to be moot?
Said the Cheshire Cat to Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
From ‘Alice in Wonderland’
By Charles Lutwidge Dodgson writing under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.
Charley Williams provides the marketing for a local civil engineering firm working on such infrastructure projects as Sunrail, Wekiva Parkway, I-4 and the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport. He has been a Winter Park resident for twelve years.
Yellow signs are popping up everywhere, urging the City not to sell the bowling alley site at 1111 W. Fairbanks, rather, to use it to expand Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.
Final Decision June 12
The final vote will likely be at the Commission meeting on June 12. The meeting begins at 3:30. Public comment is usually taken around the 5:00 hour. Click here for the meeting agenda.
Bowling Alley Background
The old bowling alley property has a checkered history. In late spring 2013, Rollins purchased the property when it looked like Harper-Shepherd Field would become a Minor League baseball stadium and no longer would be available to Rollins teams. Being contiguous with Martin Luther King, Jr., Park, the property was ideal for Rollins to expand their playing fields.
Editor’s Note: According to Communications Director Clarissa Howard, Rollins purchased the bowling alley property for use as a lacrosse practice field. She said the purchase was unrelated to Minor League baseball at Harper-Shepherd Field.
When it became clear that baseball would not be coming to Winter Park, however, Rollins no longer needed expansion room and put the property up for sale. UP Developments, LLC, contracted to buy the property from Rollins.
But the City wanted the property, too. At the time, they had their own ideas about expanding MLK Park and mitigating some of the traffic problems on Fairbanks and 17-92. In the fall of 2014, Scott Fish of UP Developments, LLC, agreed to assign his contract with Rollins to the City, so that the City could buy the property from Rollins.
That deal didn’t work out, and Rollins ended up keeping the property until 2016, when the City bought it for $2.9 million.
Editor’s note: Ms. Howard pointed out that the City did not use park acquisition funds, but instead took money from the CRA and general fund reserves, thereby avoiding any requirement that the land be used as a park.
People Want Trees & Grass – They’re Being Ignored
In the meantime, plans for the new library-event center took shape, the City created yet another vision of itself and the Comprehensive Plan underwent its seven-year cycle of massage and manipulation. The City organized plenty of public discussion around each of these activities.
Missing in these discussions was a consideration of the city’s assets as a whole – as a system. This was nowhere more evident than in the discussions about the City’s parks and greenspace — which brings us back to those yellow signs.
MLK Needs a Plan?
While the City was visioning and planning, the turf and facilities at the playing fields on south end of the MLK Park were deteriorating, and the bowling alley property stood vacant. Since the bowling alley was creating something of an eyesore on a major gateway artery, someone decided the City should have a plan — so GAI Consultants were retained to create one.
At the April 10 meeting of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), which is made up of the Commissioners and a representative from Orange County, Hal George, GAI made a presentation about their plans for creating a Master Plan. At that meeting, the Commissioners also decided to sell the bowling alley property, retaining only a right-of-way for a turn lane on Fairbanks.
Well, Part of MLK Needs a Plan
In light of the fact that the City was in the process of retaining an architect and landscape architect for the new library-event center, and they were now planning to dispose of the bowling alley property, GAI was advised that their MLK Park Master Plan should include only those parts of the park that did not include the library-event center or bowling alley areas.
Why Sell the Bowling Alley?
According to Commissioner Peter Weldon at the April 10 meeting, “Selling the bowling alley property now gives us the opportunity to do things that are much more tangible and beneficial to the City,” – like a third story on the new library-event center parking garage, or a parking garage downtown. “For one-third the money we have into [the bowling alley] land today, we could provide 100 parking spaces to expand the parking for MLK Park,” said Weldon.
Property Sale on Consent Agenda
At the next Commission meeting, April 24, the bowling alley property sale appeared on the Consent Agenda as Item C. Items on the Consent Agenda do not require discussion or public comment. Commissioners Seidel and Cooper pulled Item C off the Consent Agenda for discussion.
Commissioner Greg Seidel said the proposed sale needed more public discussion. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper agreed, requesting the item be tabled until there had been opportunity both for public discussion and for consideration by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, which had not had a voice in the decision to sell.
She pointed out that the City seldom had access to land contiguous with an existing park – and in this case, the City already owns the land. Once the land is gone, we can’t get it back.
Commission Votes to Sell the Bowling Alley
The motion to table, or postpone the sale, failed on a 3-2 vote, with Cooper and Seidel dissenting.
Cooper made a second motion to approve the sale contingent upon completion of the designs for the library and for MLK Park. That motion also failed on a 3-2 vote.
The motion to approve the sale of the property, minus the right-of-way for the turn lane, passed on a 3-2 vote, with Cooper and Seidel dissenting.
MLK Master Plan Rolls Out the Next Day
The next night, April 25, close to 100 people gathered at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center to discuss the Master Plan for part, but not all, of MLK Park. The GAI consultants explained that the bowling alley property and the new library-event center were not part of the discussion. Groups of people gathered around tables and used maps of the park and construction paper cutouts representing different types of public spaces to illustrate their visions of the park.
“Fix the Park and Don’t Sell the Bowling Alley”
As the various tables prepared to report out to the group as a whole, two things became clear. First, each table said they wanted the existing park facilities, especially the playing fields and water features, to be cleaned up and repaired. It would be okay, they said, to leave the rest of the park alone – just fix what’s there. “And don’t fill it up with shiny new stuff,” they said.
Second, participants opposed the sale of the bowling alley property. “Wait,” they said. “We don’t even have a completed design for the new library. What if we need that land? It’s too soon to decide what to do with it.”
Did the Master Plan Take a Wrong Turn?
GAI held a second meeting at the Civic Center on May 2. Only 25 to 30 people came, many of whom had attended the April 25 meeting. Again, the over-arching themes included the desire to repair existing park facilities and opposition to the sale of the bowling alley.
Asked if the outcomes of the two meetings would be reported back to the City, the GAI consultant replied that they “hadn’t heard from everyone yet.”
Additional meetings were to have been held in May, with a final plan due in July. According to Communications Director Clarissa Howard, the schedule for public meetings has been revised, and the next public meeting will be sometime in July.
Howard reported that GAI has, however, held focus group meetings that included “moms, sport coaches, daycare nurseries, realtors, staff and other professions.” These meetings were not public, said Howard, nor was public notice required.
“GAI will compile this input from the public forums and the focus group meetings into preliminary conceptual rendering to be presented at the meeting and on site walk planned in July,” wrote Howard.
Plans Minus Funding = Toothless Tigers
Comments opposing the sale of City land are too numerous to count, but there were some articulate ones on the subject of MLK Park and the bowling alley sale. While commenters were respectful, their comments indicated an underlying disconnect between Winter Park’s citizens and their elected officials.
In a letter to the Mayor and Commissioners dated May 10, Winter Park resident Bob Bendick wrote: “Winter Park has tended to discuss each of its parks in isolation . . . . Far more functional, and a characteristic of communities with the most successful public open spaces, is to think in terms of a system of parks and greenways that meets active and passive recreational needs and forms a green framework for the city’s future.”
Bendick went on to propose “that Winter Park move quickly to integrate its parks, lakes, greenspace, pedestrian and bicycle planning into a single document that describes a connected network . . . .” The plan will only be worthwhile, wrote Bendick, “if there is reliable funding to carry it out. And this is where Winter Park can do better.”
Bring Parks & Rec into the Loop
It is worth noting that at the May 24 meeting of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, Vice Chairman Julio de Arcos asked Parks & Recreation Director John Holland if anyone had sought his input on selling the bowling alley property. Holland replied that no one had. Advisory Board members expressed their opinion that the land should not be sold at this time.
Members of the public attending the Parks & Rec meeting requested the board write to the Mayor and Commissioners to express their concern about the sale of the property. According to an email from John Holland to one of the attendees, “The Parks and Recreation Board Chair has written a draft letter to the City Commission and we are currently getting approvals on format and verbiage.”
Still Time for Action
The sale of public land requires two votes by the Commission. The bowling alley sale will likely come up at the next Commission meeting on June 12. Any one of the Commissioners on the winning side of the vote to sell – Leary, Sprinkel or Weldon – can re-introduce the matter for the purpose of changing their vote. Click the email address to let your elected representatives know how you feel about stewardship of public land. MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org
As 2017 gears up, the court continues to clear obstacles from the Winter Park Library’s path to Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. Judge Margaret Schreiber has denied the Save Our Library WP PAC’s requests for a rehearing of the bond validation suit and the removal of language specifying the library location from her ruling.
Petition Question Still Unanswered
The only matter still pending is a request that the court quash the Certificate of Insufficiency issued by City Clerk Cindy Bonham. The City maintains the petition is a “reconsideration of a referendum,” which must be filed within 30 days of the election. The PAC says their petition, which was filed in August well after the election, was an initiative seeking to establish an ordinance to prevent a library from being built in MLK Park. A Citizens’ Initiative, provided for in the City Charter, has no time limit.
City Fees Top $200,000
According to City Manager Randy Knight, the City’s legal fees, to date, amount to $201,759. Fees in the bond validation suit are $168,881, and fees in the dispute over the petition total $32,878.
Bond Validation Protects City, Saves Money in the Long Run
The bond validation protects the City from future legal challenge regarding the bond issue, and it will save the City money by allowing the bonds to be sold at a more favorable rate. Any expenditures associated with the bond validation will be recovered over the life of the bonds and, according to an attorney knowledgeable about the situation but who asked not to be identified, represents a wise investment on the part of the City.
PAC: City Could Have Avoided Additional Fees
According to citizens associated with the Save Our Library WP PAC, the City would not have incurred the $32,878 in fees if they had acknowledged the citizens’ petition initiative. Michael Poole, president of the PAC, told the Voice, “This expenditure could have been avoided by allowing the voters a say in the location of the library – either by including location language in the March 15, 2016 ballot, or by accepting the citizens’ petition as an initiative and allowing the voters to express their preference that way. If the City had put the location to a vote, it would not have cost them anything.”