Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Open Letter to Mayor and Commissioners

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

Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Guest Columnist Beth Hall / January 26, 2020

What is the Most Laudable Use for CRA Funds?

Looking over the agenda for tomorrow’s Commission meeting, 1/27/2020, I see both the library-events center and the Post Office acquisition are coming before you.  I know the use of CRA funds is contemplated both for funding part of the library-events center and for acquisition of the Post Office property. I ask myself:  what is the best use for CRA funds?

Is It Filling Gaps in the Library-Events Center Budget?

There is no doubt the library-events center is a very important civic project. But the thing is, we voted to issue bonds in the amount of $30 million to pay for that project. Then, we secured an additional $6 million in tourist development tax grant money for the project. Still, we lack the necessary funding to build the library and parking surfaces. The budget is approaching $42 million now.  CRA money is essential to be able to dream of completing the project. Was that the way we planned it?

If precedents like the current library facility and the Rachel Murrah Civic Center tell us anything, the new building also will have a finite lifespan. Maybe an Adjaye-designed building will enjoy a longer life span – there is no way to know.

Or Should CRA Funds Be Used to Expand Central Park?

On the other hand, we have the potential opportunity to expand Central Park by acquiring the Post Office property. This is priceless — a thing of value beyond dollars and cents. Central Park is the crown jewel, the pride of Winter Park.

The significance of the Park for our city will only grow, as Winter Park becomes more and more developed, with projects at Ravaudage, Orange Avenue, Fairbanks and Lee Road already coming online.

The Window of Opportunity Closes Tomorrow

The Post Office Notice of Intent to negotiate with the City of Winter Park expires tomorrow, January 27. We must act now.

For this reason, I urge you to assign the acquisition of the Post Office property the very highest priority in terms of designating the use for CRA dollars. There is only one Park, and the opportunity to expand it is within your grasp. I cannot think of a greater legacy for this Commission or a greater gift to all generations to come.

  • author's avatar

    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.

  • author's avatar

16 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    Mayor and commissioners please put the CRA money towards post office acquisition, and park expansion, take advantage of the opportunity!!!!

    Reply
  2. Ian Reeves says:

    This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to increase one of our City’s most prized assets that contributes to the quality of our unique downtown core. I would highly recommend the Commission consider this acquisition as it will not present itself again. Thank you.

    Ian A. Reeves, AIA

    Reply
  3. Keith Reeves says:

    It is my understanding that the City offered 3.9 million for the Post Officr building and property, the PO said it would take 8.5 to 9 million…so .this all may be a moot point. Highly desirable, but perhaps out of reach. As to the Library & Events Center do not be surprised to see construction bids in the range of. $60,000,000.+ My letters to the Architect remain unanswered. I.S.K.Reeves V, FAIA. Architects Design Group, Inc. Winter Park, Florida

    Reply
  4. WP Anon says:

    The first question is how many dollars are in the CRA fund and is land/park property allowed to be purchased using these funds. If allowed, it does make sense to purchase the property for Central Park.
    I would love to see a three-story parking structure on the north side of the property where the post office trucks park. Lord knows we need more Parking availability in downtown Winter Park

    Reply
  5. Sally Flynn says:

    The purchase of the Post Office property is essential. It is priceless. If the city does

    not make this happen, it will be an unforgivable decision. It is about expanding our

    park but it is also to ensure that that land does not get bought by a developer

    who could put condos there. This is a choice that I am certain almost all residents would agree on.

    MAKE IT HAPPEN TODAY!

    Reply
  6. Kathryn Grammer says:

    If we extend Central Park from Park Avenue to New York, New York Avenue might become another Park Avenue with interesting shops, restaurants and office. The charm in the downtown would double.

    A Central Park that runs from avenue to avenue would be a legacy that would remain well beyond the current rush to develop. Future generations will marvel at how little it cost to bequeath these priceless parcels.

    There has never been a better time to protect these precious resources. Let’s do for the future what Charles Hosmer Morse did for us a century ago, when he gave the City the emerald jewel we call Central Park.

    Reply
    • Tom Ackert says:

      On the issue of Central Park expansion I think back to the leadership of Mayor Gary Brewer and others when he led the effort to convince citizens to vote approval of the plan to impose an additional property tax to buy the WP golf course. Imagine that space filled with buildings. I agree with all of the comments supporting the purchase of the Post Office.

      Reply
  7. Bonnie Ferguson says:

    Mayor and Commissioners please vote to use the CRA monies to acquire more green space for downtown Winter Parks’ Central Park. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity which will not come before you again. Vote to leave this wonderful legacy of an expanded Central Park to the present and future residents of Winter Park!

    Reply
  8. Make Orange Ave a Park says:

    Orange Avenue could be a park too!

    All it would take would be for the property owners to donate their property to the land trust and then the land trust could bulldoze the buildings and plant trees and flowers in their place.

    Wouldn’t that be nice?

    Reply
  9. Can CRA Blow Through $27-28 Million ? says:

    Someone ought to remind former commissioner Peter Weldon that at one point in time it was believed that $30 Million was more than enough money for this commission to build a new library and events center.

    He seems to be under the impression that the CRA can’t blow the entire 27-28 million in future unallocated CRA dollars. The majority on this commission has proven they can spend that much plus and addtl 33% …without breaking a sweat.

    Citizens are justified in expressing their priorities for CRA funds- now and in the future until it sunsets.

    Reply
  10. Cynthia Skogsberg says:

    The Post Office property is not currently for sale. I see no need for the City to purchase the Post Office property, and urge a NO on this vote to use CRA funds.
    The retail facility should stay there. The wedge of property that is used for distribution will do little to enhance Central Park as the location is separated by the railway and behind the Post Office building (which should remain in its current form!). If the entire facility is moved, we’ll have to pay to relocate it somewhere downtown $$$$$$$.
    “Expanding Central Park” sounds good, but when you look at the property’s location and consider relocating the P.O. facility, it just isn’t worth it.

    Reply
  11. Another One Bites the Dust says:

    Shame on Greg Seidel. I supported him because I thought he could stand for what is right and not cave to special interests. He campaigned on his ability to vote his conscience. Well he proved tonight otherwise, blindly approving a boondoggle like he did the last meeting. He’s like Leary’s lap dog .

    In one month he’s paved the way for two wealthy developers to destroy residents quality of life by allowing them unusual entitlements. And then tonight he followed his new best friend’s wishes and voted through the obnoxious Canopy boondoggle. I’m glad his term is almost over.

    Reply
  12. Cigar says:

    Seidel’s vote today to build the $42 million project in MLK Park, proves only one thing.

    Winter Park residents will NEVER regain control of their City Commission until residents abstain from two of their favorite vices:

    1) Civility

    2) Gullibility

    Both of this year’s “pro-resident” candidates appear to be under the influence of heavy doses of the above, as do their supporters.

    So don’t expect much to change regardless of who wins.

    The definition of insanity still is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    The Voice never tells the residents what their real problem is, so the residents keep riding the merry-go-ground, around in circles, year after year, and wonder why they never seem to get anywhere.

    When all they had to do was get off the ride and walk directly where they want to go.

    Reply
  13. What's In a Name? (Maybe Vanity) says:

    The final vote on the Library/Events Center stale fiscal sandwich combo is a playbook replayed over and over with small communities. MIsplaced vanity hoping a big-name player will lift them up to a new stage of next-level recognition.(Given our TDC funding, guess that’s international recognition) That is until that brand wears off — and then its “who cares? So much for ROI.. The simple truth is that our Winter Park brand is all we need. Years in the making. It has stood the test of time. So for those elected officials who have voted for this budget quagmire (and believe me, the true cost is actually upwards of $52 million when all is said and done)–it’s all yours. I do hope there will be a plaque on the side of the building as a reminder that WP bucked convention fiscal wisdom and drank the kool-aid. I’ll supply the candles..

    Reply
  14. Peter Gottfried says:

    I hope we can save the smashed aluminum can wall on the back side of the post office. Actually the post office is pretty incredible architectural design with flowing rock walls and the can walk. Check it out on the back (east) side.

    Reply

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