Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Status of New ‘Library’ Project

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

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Guest Columnist Joe Terranova

Most of you know that as a result of my injury last October I have been keeping a low profile as I devote my energies to my recovery, but that does not mean I have not followed City events.

The election results on Tuesday, March 12 were most interesting. It is rare that an incumbent places second in a 3 way race, or in my opinion, would have lost if only the top two candidates ran unless he were an idiot or committed grievous acts on his own while a sitting commissioner. No one can say that about Peter Weldon. So why such a poor showing against a relatively unknown challenger?

All of you know I was a member of the group that tried to prevent the city from constructing the new library in Martin Luther King Park. The courts ruled in favor of the city and as far as I am concerned this is a settled issue.

Most of the people I speak to, however, are very upset with the current City Commission`s handling of the library project. The design of grandiose structures that do not fit into the fabric of Winter Park, the dominance of the project by the civic center — later called the events center and now perhaps the convention center –plus the desire of the commission to add on items to the project in excess of the funds approved by the voters has led to dissatisfaction among many — do I dare say a majority of Winter Park voters?

Naming the project the “Canopy” and then cutting down all the beautiful specimen trees was the penultimate insult. Finally, I listened to the Mayor`s presentation to the Orange Country Commission requesting tourist dollars and to Todd Weaver`s “Bait and Switch” video.

When did the citizens of Winter Park agree to be an Orange County Convention Center “Lite?” When was a discussion held with the residents on the West Side concerning the impact of thousands of visitors to their area?

True, many in the business community like the idea of thousands of additional tourists (translate: potential business customers) swarming through Winter Park.

During the time I was Mayor I worked hard each day to advance my vision of Winter Park as a “Premier Urban Village.” Every new iteration to this project moves us further from that goal. Putting lipstick on this pig just does not help it be anything other than a pig.

I am not a psychic who can predict the results of the run off election on April 9, but I can say this project is way off course.

The proper thing to do is swallow the current expenses paid to date, scrap the whole thing and start over. I doubt, however, that this will happen. The run off election should be interesting.

Joe Terranova was Mayor of Winter Park from 1997 – 2000.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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20 replies
  1. Dail C Pribil says:

    I agree completely with Joe Terranova’s comments. Winter Park has been a wonderfully charming
    community, but it is growing too rapidly and heading in a totally different direction. Welcome to
    California!

    Reply
  2. The Ghost of MLK Park Oak Trees says:

    What happened, Joe, is that the City Commission became dazzled with the delusion of their names in bronze letters, for millions to pass by and to read, on the cornerstone of a world famous art museum.

    They threw democracy and representative government of all forms out the window to satisfy their lust for glory – to be immortalized what they imagined to be another Louvre, Guggenheim, or Met.

    And as sometimes happens in such instances, truth became the first casualty in their quest for greatness.

    At every turn, not one or two Commissioners – BUT ALL FIVE – summarily rejected each and every sign, over the past THREE YEARS, that the residents wanted none of this project – and yet Commissioners plunged ahead anyway with a “YES” vote on every agenda item that moved the project forward.

    Even a petition signed by over 2,000 Winter Park residents opposing the project in the park, was met with no more respect and response than an alarm clock ringing on a Saturday morning gets when an annoyed slumberer rolls over and hits the snooze button.

    Instead of being concerned at the first clue that nobody wanted “The Canopy” – the bond referendum results that stated that AT LEAST half of Winter Park voters didn’t vote for the whopping debt and tax increase for a project they don’t want – all the Commissioners could say is, “The residents approved it.”

    It is almost as if Commissioners have been in some kind of a trance for the past three years.

    Today, it is hard to find ANYONE in Winter Park who supports The Canopy project – at its projected cost, at its location, at its design, and at its intended use.

    Still, FOUR City Commissioners continue to vote “Yes” on everything that moves the project forward. Only Commissioner Cooper has hesitated, and only in very recent months.

    What Weaver has shed light on from the perspective of the library and events center fiasco, is only the latest, and most visible symptom in local government gone wild.

    When residents have lost control of their City Commission, they have lost control of their City.

    The value of representative government is in its ability to adjust course quickly in response to the represented.

    Winter Park has lost representative government.

    And that’s what residents are finally waking up to. And why they are voting for Todd Weaver by the thousands during these final weeks leading up the April 9 election. By so many numbers that if they are told Weldon won NOBODY in town will believe it.

    In one sense, it matters little who wins – or who Orange County SAYS wins the election.

    A sleeping giant – the 30,000 residents of Winter Park – has awakened.

    When will our City Commissioners?

    Reply
  3. Jerry Pierce says:

    I agree with former Mayor Joe Terranova’s comments and assessment of voter sentimenement. When a hard working commissioner like Pete Weldon is not a “slam dunk for reelection” it ought to send a message to the rest of the commissioners.

    Although the vote is over on “the library,” if I were commissioner I would have worked to invest a million dollars make the present library into a palace and to also invest a million or so to renovate the civic center. That’s all history.

    Now we must deal with where we are, which is a controversial project designed by an architect who designed the ugliest building in Washington DC and at least one other ugly building.

    Although I will not be voting for Todd Weaver, I do agree with much of what he says. I believe this project should be stopped and re-evaluated as to purpose and to address apparent design flaws such as the extensive use of glass, particularly glass facing south and west, which most likely will create a signicant air conditioning challenge in addition to adding interior window covering thereby negating the visual benefits of expansive windows.

    As a general related comment, I question our direction when airline magazines such as American Air refer to Winter Park as an International tourist destination. Yes, we want an attractive vibrant downtown, but are we paying taxes to support an international tourist destination that has now contributed to the traffic and parking problem?

    Reply
  4. Linda Eriksson says:

    Thank you Joe for this well written article! My feeling is that if the bond issue had actually stated where they had intended to put the library it never would have passed. I would have loved a new library but not in MLK Park and certainly not in its existing design. And yes, I would say a majority of Winter Park voters are very dissatisfied with the entire project and your suggestion to start over is definitely the proper thing to do. Sadly, proper doesn’t seem to be the right way to do anything any longer. Todd Weaver is no longer “unknown.” His presence and involvement with everything going on in the city this past year has been wonderful to watch. He, too, has your vision of keeping Winter Park a “Premier Urban Village.” …..Also, glad to know you are on the mend!

    Reply
  5. Red Brick Rising says:

    San Antonio has stolen our Sir Adjaye library design! http://www.rubycity.org (Well actually, they had it first). For this museum funded as a dream-wish by a wealthy philanthropist. At least they have the budget to follow through with designated finishes, adornments and sire wrap-arounds to bring the dream to reality. Yes, it helps. Here in Winter Park we are struggling to meet expanded scope and budget. Why are we eliminating skylight/natural light? Why can’t we budget for LEED-certification and walk-the-walk for energy conservation? The MLK Jr site was never prequaliffied. Now we are dealing with layers of muck and buried debris to depths of 25-30 ft. Now what? Excavate and install steel sheet piles to dewater before we can build? Put the whole thing on piles? Now that gets expensive. The last thing this project needs. Most surprisingly, I can’t find anyine who likes the Adjaye design. Guess we’ll just have to say: “Meet you at The Red Brick”.

    Reply
    • Nora F. says:

      Well Mr. Terranova I think you answered your own question as to why such a poor showing for Weldon against Mr. Weaver.

      Reply
  6. Erich Blossey says:

    Excellent points. My concern has been the site:not environmentally sound decision to place the library on land needed for the park. Then add more parking lot to consume even more land. Just what Winter Park needed: convention center.

    Reply
  7. Nonsense says:

    Apparently I must have terrible taste. I find all of Sir David’s Designs UGLY. Click on the ruby city link to see what we are in for. I resent my tax bill increasing to pay for this hideousness, just because it was “knighted”…particularly when we have talented architects/engineers RIGHT HERE we should be utilizing. That’s whose names should be emblazoned on the cornerstone.

    If we just want a design signed off on by a knight, perhaps Sir Nicholas Faldo can lend a hand to a local AE firm. Faldo actually has taste. If he’s not interested I’m sure Sir Scott Disick is available….at rock bottom prices.

    Reply
  8. Love the Park says:

    The focus of this commission–at least the triumvirate– is to satisfy the business, even if it damages the character of the town.

    Leary, Sprinkle and Weldon, voting in lock-step on the big issues, are dictating policy with impunity. I hope come April 9 we will have broken this stranglehold.

    Thanks Pete for your service. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Reply
  9. “Library” Nonsense says:

    Since the new library isn’t going to provide the square footage and space supposedly needed and definitely promised, I suggest the City of Winter Park hold onto the existing library and use both spaces. We will then have MORE than enough room. We could have community yoga, community language classes, community tutoring, community bridge clubs, community anything and everything and plenty of space to do it all.

    To Rollins/Alfond, yeah, I did just say that. Sorry but no sale!!!!

    Reply
  10. Charlotte Hunter says:

    Count me in among those disgusted with how the city’s commission–particularly the mayor and his two cronies–have mishandled the new library plans. Let’s scrap the convention-center-lite ideas, put in more shelves, expand The New Leaf space. Oh, and let’s merge with the Orange County Library System. That way we’ll have access to more books and home delivery for our elderly who cannot drive.

    Reply
    • Libraries beyond Wallsc Service says:

      Thank you for speaking for unserved shut-ins.

      There is a large number of unserved and underserved WP residents who are unable to access services of the WPPL because of challenges and disabilities.

      Many of these residents would be able to use digital library services.

      However instead of expanding digital services, the WPPL ended its digital subscription to the NY Times some time ago because it was “too expensive” and has given no response to suggestions to Kanopy, a library streaming service.

      There has also been no response to a suggestion to initiating a “Books on Wheels” service.

      Shouldn’t a 21st century library become more accessible beyond the walls of a building?

      Marin County (California) has a “Library Beyond Walls”, a free service of the Marin County Free Library that provides library services to county residents who are unable to visit our various locations in person. Library Beyond Walls staff and trained volunteers deliver and pick up library materials from the homes of our patrons.

      Visionary, public spirited communities everywhere are instituting “libraries beyond walls” and even “libraries beyond borders.” Their motivation is about service and sharing with the larger public, especially marginalized members, not about using a library building to promote tourists and profit for local businesses

      Reply
  11. Brian canin. says:

    Joe is right on. He always had it right about the community and the character of the city.it is not too late to start over.

    Reply
  12. Brian canin. says:

    Joe is right on. He always had it right about the community and the character of the city that we value. It is not too late to start over. Let’s send a message.

    Reply
  13. Laurel says:

    Oh, the comments here are ridiculous. It would be utterly irresponsible to waste our taxpayer dollars and start over with LESS money than before for the project–assuming the City could legally do so! We can move forward and improve the project we already have. If you say we’re struggling to stay on budget now, how do you hope to build a new library and events center on LESS? You CANNOT! So many of you seem uninterested in reality or its consequences.

    Reply
    • WP Anon says:

      Good thinking, Laurel. We CAN work within existing budget by value engineering it. Making it less of a swanky events/convention center and more like a LIBRARY. A LIBRARY doesn’t require high dollar finishes. But whatever would we do without the throngs of tourists pilgrimaging in to ogle Sir David’s “masterpiece” you say??? Oh yeah, we would live in our quaint and quiet village enjoying our new library and event center.

      Reply
  14. Nora F. says:

    Re comment that these comments are ridiculous, I think this person needs to reread these opinions. They are about much more than starting over and far from ridiculous. They are about the past, present and future of what the residents and the city commission and mayor need to do to plan more efficiently, economically and more in keeping with the ambiance of W. Pk.

    Reply
  15. Sen. Stewart (D-Orlando) requested $32.4 mil for Canopy Center says:

    Wondering if any WP-ers have any intel regarding why Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) requested $32.4 million for a “Winter Park Public Library and Events Center (Senate request number 1814)” that “seeks construction of a public library and event center to provide public access to information, promote literacy, provide public access to Wi-Fi and provide a multi-use space for the community.”

    Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando requested $500,000 (HB 3153) for the facility.

    Their requests do not mention the recently revealed intended use of the Canopy convention center as a neo-brutalist (the architectural style) high-end wedding destination to expand tourism in Winter Park.

    Source: Rep. Florida lawmakers look to bring home the bacon, including a $32 million request for the Winter Park library
    Posted By Jim Turner, the News Service of Florida on Mon, Mar 4, 2019

    https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2019/03/04/florida-lawmakers-look-to-bring-home-the-bacon-including-a-32-million-request-for-the-winter-park-library

    While reading about the late Mrs. Lurline Fletcher, I discovered that the transformation of Winter Park from a beautiful historic town to a tourist destination has been planned for years.

    In 2016, the City approved the construction of a 120-room “boutique hotel”(with a restaurant, a meeting space and a swimming pool, using an existing three-story parking garage) at the intersection of Morse and Pennsylvania.

    None of the reportage included info on the “group of investors” who proposed the hotel.

    Is this hotel still being built?

    “New Boutique Hotel Planned in Winter Park” (Dec. 1, 2016) https://www.orangeobserver.com/article/new-boutique-hotel-planned-winter-park

    “Winter Park resident Lurline Fletcher said the new hotel is merely another piece of the west side of the city being chipped way by gentrification. The community to the west of the train tracks – historically a lower-income, African American community – continues to see more and more upscale development.

    “’Every time the west side comes up, you always have a new [project] for it,” Fletcher said. “Resident neighborhoods are supposed to be for resident neighborhoods.’

    “’I don’t think its fair to the residents that you’re going to put a hotel on Pennsylvania in the residential neighborhood.’”

    Someone at WP Voice on FB suggested that a student or scholar at Rollins might want to research the history of the gentrification for profit of the historic West Side African American neighborhood and community.

    What City- (and now county- and state-?) supported developers have been doing in Winter Park is part of a larger land grab: state- and city-sponsored “reurbanization.” It’s considered the new urban colonization.

    Neo-brutalist architecture is known for stark disregard of nearby historic, community style. In many examples, brutalist architecture also reflects state-dominated culture (state socialist government).

    It does not seem coincidental that the participation of WP residents has not been included in the process of choosing the location of a new library, the design of the new library, and the surprise “tourist destination” Canopy center.

    These choices were made by a few developers and politicians who used subterfuge to force their Canopy Center upon a majority of residents who cherish and want to maintain their historic, neighborly, pleasant community and who are now demanding for the return of participatory democratic process.

    Reply

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