WP Village to Get Post-COVID Facelift

WP Village to Get Post-COVID Facelift

WP Village to Get Post-COVID Facelift

Regal Cinema Could Light up the Night

by Anne Mooney / April 23, 2022

Winter Park Town Center, Ltd., (“Casto”) owner of Winter Park Village, plans a major facelift for the 25-year-old open-air retail village, one of the first of its kind in the country.  Like other retail and restaurant establishments, Winter Park Village tenants have suffered during the pandemic. All struggled; some failed altogether. But Casto promises brighter days ahead.

Casto to invest $40M+

In a letter to the Winter Park City Commission, Casto’s Brett Hutchens stated, “As we move out of the pandemic, we . . . have made the decision to invest over $40 million in upgrading Winter Park Village. This will include . . . rebranding; updating architecture and facades; enhanced lighting and landscaping; enhanced outdoor spaces . . .; new outdoor furnishings along with exterior and interior enhancements to Regal Cinemas.”

Regal Cinemas enhancements

If the Village is getting the complete Mommy Makeover, Regal Cinemas is asking for the Plastic Fantastic which would, of course, require a Conditional Use approval or two.

Lighted Tower marks the entrance

The first Conditional Use request is construction of a 63-foot-high central architectural tower which requires a variance of eight feet above the permitted 55-foot height. The tower would be located at the main entrance to the cinema. It would be covered on the north, west and south sides by an ornamental grill and illuminated from within. The fourth side would be opaque to prevent casting illumination to the east where there are residential properties.

No flashing lights

Despite some confusion among Commissioners at the April 13 meeting, Casto assured the City that the lights inside the tower are not neon, and they will not flash or change color. Instead, they will provide a steady, constant illumination behind the decorative grill that will cover the lower part of the tower that rises to meet a pointed, opaque roof.  Someone at the meeting likened the lighted tower to a jack-o-lantern.

Exterior animated screens entertain visitors to the Village

The other request for Conditional Use, which promises to bring a little bit of ‘Vegas right here to Winter Park, is for three large digital animated screens on the exterior of the cinema.

The proposed central sign over the entrance is 1,275 square feet and measures in excess of 70 feet in width. It will have lighted, moving images advertising movies being shown at the theater.

The main sign would be flanked by two smaller screens of 141 square feet each – also with moving digital images displayed on them.

P&Z weighs in

As is customary, Casto presented their requests to Planning & Zoning (P&Z) before going before the Commission. Staff brought the requests forward with a recommendation for approval of the 63-foot tower, but did not take a position on the electric signage request, advising that the Commission should be “the recommending body for this specific type of request.”

P&Z voted 7-0 for approval to construct a central architectural tower at a height of 63 feet.

On a 5-2 vote, P&Z voted to approve the installation of three electronic signs, with the following conditions:

    • There must be no offsite advertisements displayed on the electronic screens.
    • The lighting must only be on during theater business hours.
    • The electronic screens should have no sound.
    • Movie trailers only are allowed to be shown on the electronic screens.

Dissenting votes were cast by Michael Spencer and Alex Stringfellow.

Commission votes to Table

While the April 13 Commission meeting featured a lengthy and sometimes wandering discussion, no conclusion was reached. Casto agreed to go back to Regal to see if they would consider reducing the size of the exterior lighted screens. Commissioners seemed inclined to go along with the lighted tower, but as the discussion gradually ran out of steam, the Commissioners voted unanimously to Table the requests to the April 27 Commission meeting.

Be sure to tune in this Wednesday evening.


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Meet the 2022 City Commission Candidates

Meet the 2022 City Commission Candidates

Meet the 2022 City Commission Candidates

by Anne Mooney / January 2, 2022

Note:  This article was updated January 13 to reflect recent changes in the vote-by-mail ballot schedule. 

Mark your calendars for the Candidate Forum, Jan. 27, 9:00 to 10:15 a.m. at the Winter Park Public Library, 1052 West Morse Blvd., sponsored by the Winter Park Voice, the Park Avenue District and the Orange County League of Women Voters.

Mike Lafferty will moderate

Mike Lafferty, former Opinion Editor at the Orlando Sentinel, has agreed to moderate the Forum, which is free and open to the public. The Forum will follow the League of Women Voters protocols for timing of candidate responses, overall fairness and vetting of audience questions. This election is non-partisan.


Cruzada and Vaya for Seat #3

Two candidates, Kristopher Cruzada and Anjali Vaya, will vie for Commission Seat #3, long held by outgoing Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who has served the maximum allowed four consecutive terms in office. “Carolyn Cooper . . . those are going to be big shoes to fill,” said Cruzada.

Weaver for Seat #4

Todd Weaver

As of this writing, Commissioner Todd Weaver is running unopposed for re-election to Commission Seat #4.

Candidate filing isn’t over yet

But that could change. The formal period for candidate filing runs from Noon, Jan. 10 to Noon, Jan. 18, so until 12:01 p.m. Jan. 18, we won’t know for sure how many hats are thrown into the ring.

Vote-by-mail ballots go out Feb. 2

The Candidate Forum is slated for Jan. 27. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections will begin sending vote-by-mail ballots to those who have requested them on Feb. 2. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Feb. 26. The election is March 8. If a runoff election is necessary, it will be held April 12.

Deadline to register is Feb. 7 — Be Ready! Time is short.

If you have questions about your voter status, go to https://www.ocfelections.com/ to make sure your information is up to date and to check your vote-by-mail status. It is important to do this now. The deadline to register is February 7.

From Forum Sponsors

“We hope this candidate forum can underscore the importance of small businesses and local community partners in the day-to-day considerations of future candidates,” said Forum sponsor Sarah Grafton, President of the Park Avenue District. “We understand the importance of civic engagement and we are proud to do our part.”

Reflecting the sentiments of the three sponsors, Grafton went on to say, “We are invested in the future of our city and in those who serve it.”


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WP Land Trust on Progress Point

WP Land Trust on Progress Point

WP Land Trust on Progress Point

Recommendations to the WP City Commission

by Guest Columnist Bob Bendick / July 18, 2021

Land Trust Mission

The Winter Park Land Trust is a non-profit organization managed by a volunteer citizen board of trustees. The mission of the land trust is to plan, help finance, and manage the acquisition of land and interests in land to be used for the creation, expansion, improvement, and connecting of parkland and green space within and adjacent to the City of Winter Park.

Land Trust Vision

Our vision is that the Land Trust will help to ensure that Winter Park and surrounding communities will be an area with sufficient parks and open space, where the footprint of existing parks will be increased, and wherever possible, parks and green spaces will be connected in order to balance and reduce the adverse impacts of increasing development and population density. Attractive green space will then always be an important asset and characteristic of the Winter Park area.

The Winter Park Land Trust Board has followed the discussions concerning the design and configuration of a park at the Progress Point property. The Land Trust Board met on July 12, 2021, and adopted recommendations concerning Progress Point.

On July 12, 2021, the Land Trust board of trustees wrote to the City Commission:

The Winter Park Land Trust recommends that the City of Winter Park maximize the amount of land devoted to greenspace in the Progress Point parcel and that it connects that greenspace through walkways and bikeways with other city parks and open spaces. Toward that end, we recommend that the city should:

  1. Begin immediately to design and build a 1.5 to 2.0-acre park at Progress Point and the greenway connecting that site to Mead Garden and designate that land as a park in the city’s comprehensive plan.
  2. Design the park to be part of the larger greenways system described below.
  3. Restrooms are an appropriate use of park land.
  4. Seek funding to enhance the greenway connection between the Progress Point site and Martin Luther King Park and to create a new Greenway link between M.L. King Park along Morse Avenue to Central Park. A short connection between M.L. King and the Winter Park Community Center would also be desirable as is the connection between Progress Point and the Winter Park Tennis Center.
  5. Reserve decisions on the use of the balance of the Progress Point land until the Orange Avenue Overlay plan is completed and there is a sense of likely additional private development in the area with the objective of maximizing the creation of greenspace including through tree planting, usable open space and pedestrian-friendly walkways.
  6. Complete the design of the Progress Point Park such that it:
    • Includes ample use of large shade trees;
    • Emphasizes pedestrian and bicycle access;
    • Is safe for users including children, considering the adjacent street and railroad tracks;
    • Uses materials consistent with those historically used in Winter Park;
    • Is durable and practical to maintain.
  7. Proceed with updating the City’s Parks Plan as a guide to future park development.

Bob Bendick is a founding member of the Winter Park Land Trust Board of Trustees.

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Progress Point Survey

Progress Point Survey

Progress Point Survey

Never Asked, ‘Should We Keep It Green?’

Guest Columnist Leslie K. Poole / June 25, 2021

Winter Park today has an extraordinary opportunity to create more park space amid the metropolitan area’s sea of asphalt and development. The mayor and city commissioners are considering the future of four-acre Progress Point, an old utility department site at the intersection of Orange Ave. and Denning Dr.

Residents polled about Progress Point

In March residents were polled about their preferences for its redevelopment. Possibilities included a massive parking garage and retail space the size of a typical Publix grocery story. As if the City needs to be a landlord to companies that will compete with existing businesses.

The missing question

At no time have planners considered making the property all green space, with trees, benches, and walkways that enhance our growing need to get outdoors to de-stress, breathe and soak in nature’s beauty. Sadly, city pollsters didn’t even give residents that option.

Residents responded anyway

What the poll did show was that residents value tree shade, gardens, lawns, and native plantings as part of any design. That supports numerous national studies that show people want and love park space. It makes urban living more peaceful. It raises nearby property values. It enhances shopping and dining experiences for anyone who visits the area.

Progress Point – missing link in the Emerald Necklace

Even more wonderful, a Progress Point Park would be far more than a neighborhood space—it would be another link in a citywide necklace of “green” gems, further enhancing Winter Park’s livability. Imagine walking or riding a bike from Mead Botanical Garden to Progress Point to Martin Luther King Jr. Park to Central Park and beyond. That is a vision that few cities have—or are able to create.

As a founding trustee of the Winter Park Land Trust, which aims to increase usable park space in the city, I can report that the Trust has voted to endorse “maximum green space” at Progress Point. We must urge city leaders to reconsider current proposals that contain development.

Add more park to Winter Park

It’s time to stop and smell the roses in Central Park that make our city so unique. Ask the Mayor and Commissioners to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add more “park” to Winter Park. Our grandchildren and their grandchildren will thank us.

Leslie Poole is an award winning journalist and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Rollins College. 

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Henderson Hotel Stalled

Henderson Hotel Stalled

Henderson Hotel Stalled

Defect in City-wide Public Notice Delays P&Z Hearing

by Anne Mooney / November 24, 2020

The Winter Park Planning Department announced they have postponed a December 1st Planning & Zoning (P&Z) hearing on the controversial Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney until after the holidays. The P&Z hearing now will take place Tuesday, January 5. If P&Z approves the project, it will go to the Commission for a first reading and public hearing January 27th and a second reading on February 10th.

The postponement stems from a defect in the Public Notice that was published in the November 1st Orlando Sentinel. Property at 1310 Fairview Ave. was omitted from the Public Notice. Included instead was property at “1310 Grove Ave.,” which does not exist.

The mistake, the result of a City staff error, involves a large parcel at 1310 Fairview that is slated to become a park, a portion of which will also form the roof of the subterranean parking garage that will serve the hotel.

The Henderson Hotel project first came before the City in February 2019, but the application was later withdrawn after a deal to acquire land on 17-92 from Hillstone’s Restaurant fell through.


Hotel Redesigned

This fall, revised plans for the five-story Victorian style hotel were submitted to the City for the three-acre site on Lake Killarney. The new design features a restaurant and bar, ballroom, increased green space, subterranean parking, a reduction in overall building size from 210,522 square feet to 129,100 square feet (not including the garage) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The hotel will be set back 84 feet from Lake Killarney and 145 feet from 17-92.

The developer, Winter Park Historic Hotels Group, is requesting changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map, vacation of portions of Killarney Drive and Fairview Avenue and a Conditional Use Approval. The hotel has gone from 118 to 132 rooms and ranges in height from 55 to 73 feet. The developer is asking to rezone to C3 Commercial four residential lake-front lots and two parcels zoned office. Although the number of rooms has gone from 118 to 132, the amount of parking went from 245 spaces in 2019 to 235 spaces in 2021.


Winter Park Land Trust not involved in the Henderson project

In return for these concessions, Winter Park Historic Hotels Group plans to offer an easement to just under an acre of land on Fairview Ave. for use as a public park. Some confusion, however, has been created by the Henderson Hotel website www.hendersonhotelwinterpark.com which implies involvement of the Winter Park Land Trust. According to the WPLT that is not the case.


Winter Park Land Trust issued the following statement.

“The Winter Park Land Trust was established to create more park space and green space in our city, and to help ensure that we keep the green space we already have. One method of doing so in this city that is already extensively developed is for the WPLT to accept conservation easements over green space that is to be included as part of redevelopment projects such as those being considered on the Orange Avenue Overlay and adjacent to Lake Killarney.Conservation easements are permanent restrictions preventing the future development of green space. It should be clear, however, that the WPLT does not endorse or support development projects even when the developer may be contemplating the donation of a conservation easement.

We have not endorsed the Henderson Hotel project. Negotiation to include open space within a development is the province of the City. WPLT can help ensure that such green space is permanent, but we will accept an easement only after:

    • A project has been approved by P&Z and the City Commission
    • A developer provides us with specific plans for the proposed green space
    • The agreement has been reviewed by the appropriate WPLT committees and legal counsel
    • The WPLT Board of Trustees has voted to accept the easement.

None of these steps has been taken for the Henderson Hotel.”


Neighbors divided. On the one hand . . .

David Brenner, a Lake Killarney Dr. resident, said he thought the Henderson seems like it would be a good building for Winter Park. “We were initially concerned about the impact on the lake,” said Brenner. “But when we went to the public forum at the Farmer’s Market a couple of years ago, we were very impressed that [Henderson Hotel developer] Adam Wonus  wants to reach out to people who live in Winter Park. We don’t need another Trader Joe’s with the parking and traffic nightmare. If we could get a world class hotel that draws from the history of Winter Park, it would be a great. Adam is listening and trying to make his project work in a way that makes people happy.”

Charles Brenner, who has lived on Killarney Dr. for more than 50 years and is the father of David Brenner, said the health of the lake is the most important thing to him. He looks forward to Wonus’s plans to clean up the eastern side of the lake, which is quite shallow. “A lot of trash comes into the lake from 17-92,” said Brenner, “and that side of the lake has long been neglected. I look forward to it being cleaned up, which Adam and his company plan to do. This is a situation similar to the Alfond, where we have the opportunity for a beautiful project, which will be a great thing for the city.”


On the other hand . . .

In a letter to Commissioner Marty Sullivan, Lake Killarney neighbor Jim Cunningham wrote, “. . .the hotel project is beautiful, and for that reason I wish I could get behind it, but I can’t. . . . I see a correlation between the city’s longing for this project and the German version [of the Cinderella story]. You remember that after Cinderella lost her glass slipper, a search was made throughout the land to find the woman whose foot fit the slipper. When the prince came to Cinderella’s house, the evil stepsisters were willing to cut off their toes to try to make their over-sized feet fit into the slipper, leaving the slipper covered in blood.”

Cunningham continued, “This project is beautiful . . ., but the hotel is not a good fit for the neighborhood. Changing all the city’s ordinances, codes and Comp Plan in an effort to cram this project into a residential neighborhood is reminiscent of the stepsisters’ willingness to do whatever it took to make the slipper fit. . . . The project, as currently conceived, is not a fit for our lakefront community. No amount of ‘cutting off toes’ will change that.”

A group of citizens has put up a website opposing the Henderson project at www.nohendersonhotel.com

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Stormy Weather Ahead

Stormy Weather Ahead

Will the Lights Stay On?

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

Peter K. Gottfried, Guest Columnist

Tropical Storm Maria has now become Hurricane Maria and is battering residents of the Caribbean — even as they are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Too soon to tell if Maria will turn toward Central Florida, but one thing remains certain – the City of Winter Park is still not ready for a major hurricane.

This rotten utility pole at Stovin and Park Avenue fell during Hurricane Irma.

Storm Water Has No Where to Go . . .

Flooding occurs in the same areas of the City it always has – and thanks to continuing development without proper storm water management, it is getting worse. The City knowns about these areas, but continues to take a go-slow approach to addressing them.

. . . Except Into the Roads

Lake Mendsen within Martin Luther King Park – site of the proposed $30 million library-event center — is woefully inadequate to handle existing storm water drainage from the Winter Park Village, the Paseo Apartments and the CNL Heritage Center. Even a heavy afternoon thunder storm will cause flooding on Denning Drive and Harper Street. The construction of the new library, with its associated impervious surfaces, can only make things worse. Other areas of the City that routinely flood include the intersection of Kings Way and Fawsett Road and stretches of Palmer Avenue, where water rises to the curb top after an afternoon downpour.

High Rates Alone Won’t Keep the Lights On

Reliable electric power during major storms is a significant issue. Like many other customers in Winter Park, I was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma.

Let’s Bring Our Infrastructure Into the 21st Century

Winter Park purchased the electric utility from Progress Energy/Florida Power in 2005 with a promise to underground all lines within 10 years. According to the City website, that target completion date has moved out to 2026. Progress is measured in terms of how many miles of line have been undergrounded rather than the number of additional customers served. The current debate is less about how and when to underground and more about how to pay for it. For information about undergrounding in your area, go to https://gispublic.cityofwinterpark.org/ugstatus/

Editor’s Note: The City of Winter Park issued a statement that said undergrounding timeline was 20 years.

Winter Park can do better. There is no reason we should scramble every time there is a major storm. Let’s bring our infrastructure up to date so we can have some peace of mind when the next storm hits.

Peter K. Gottfried is President of Natural Systems Analysts, Inc. which provides technical and scientific support to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Land Management. He served as a City Commissioner and on the Planning and Zoning Board, Lakes and Waterways Board and, currently, on the board of Mead Botanical Garden.

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