New renderings show glimpse of Winter Park's future
The side-by-side comparison shows what the major corridor would look like with new park space vs. the pad of a building and parking lot
Sept. 9, 2023
By Beth Kassab
A new set of renderings commissioned by the Winter Park Land Trust juxtaposes two potential futures of a stretch of the city’s busy business corridor. One image shows a bank-owned parcel converted to green space to enlarge Seven Oaks Park. The other shows the pad of a commercial building and surrounding parking lot.
For advocates of preserving and growing green space amid an increasingly urban region, the choice could not be more clear.
“What’s right for the city residents 10 years from now, 30 years from now, 50 years from now – when many of us will be gone – is at stake here,” said Brad Blum, a Winter Park resident who served as chief executive officer of multiple major restaurant brands such as Olive Garden and Brio and is a member of the Winter Park Land Trust board. “The city has an important decision to make. An expanded and robust green space or a multi-story commercial building that will divide its current and limited green spaces.”
The Land Trust has pledged at least $500,000 to help the city purchase the parcel owned by the Arkansas-based Bank OZK (formerly known as Bank of the Ozarks) to enlarge Seven Oaks Park at the corner of Orange Avenue and Denning Drive. The total purchase price is about $6 million. The sale to the city is part of a deal in which the bank would build a branch at the mixed-use Ravaudage development instead.
In addition to a $1 million private contribution from sources including the Land Trust, the city has about $1 million in its parks acquisition fund. That leaves about $4 million that must be financed by the city in order to get the deal done, according to a budget memorandum by city staff that expressed some concern about the feasibility of the plan.
“Staff estimates that the city could borrow at a rate of about 4.5%, and over 15 years that would approximate $372k in annual debt service payments,” the memo says. “While this number is within the General Fund’s current contingency balance estimated for FY24, it may be difficult to sustain over the longer term as revenue growth rates dim and expenditures driven by pension, healthcare, and lingering inflation costs, put pressure on budgets.”
Staff noted that debt service payments could increase to more than $500,000 per year if the cost of improving the land is also financed. It’s possible though, staff pointed out, that city commissioners could opt to pay for the purchase out of the general fund’s reserve dollars or sell other assets such as the old Winter Park Library or other land to generate money for the expanded park.
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