News & Notes: Hard budget choices ahead; the future of Park Avenue and city promotions
A look ahead at the next Winter Park City Commission meeting
By Beth Kassab
Winter Park City Commissioners will face some hard choices this week as they continue to comb through the city’s budget and set priorities.
Is there enough money to buy the Bank of the Ozarks property to expand Seven Oaks Park? What about an awning for the Cady Way Pickle Ball courts? Can the city afford to build a sorely-needed downtown parking garage or fix more brick streets?
Those are some of the topics expected to come up when commissioners consider what to prioritize at their meeting on Wednesday.
A list of capital projects will need a serious edit, according to city staff, who determined, “the scope and quantity of projects that have been listed are beyond the current ability of expected revenues to be able to accomplish.”
An analysis of $40.9 million worth of projects desired by city staff or elected officials shows at least $30 million of the total is not funded. Staff estimated about $6 million in additional funds will become available over the next five years through the CRA, the general fund, the parks acquisition fund and the mobility impact fee, still leaving a deficit of about $23 million.
Critical to the outcome will be whether the city’s CRA is extended beyond 2027 when it is scheduled to sunset. Extension will require approval by Orange County.
The future of retail on Park Avenue and more
Winter Park wants to keep up with the Joneses. Or rather with Winter Garden, Mt. Dora and other cities that have stepped up their shopping and dining scenes in recent years to compete for Winter Park’s longstanding bragging rights as the favorite among the brunch and stroll crowd.
A new strategies report recommends ways the city can improve not only its central Park Avenue district, but the other retail corridors: Hannibal Square; Fairbanks Avenue; Orange Avenue; U.S. 17-92, which the city also calls “The Golden Mile,” and Aloma Corners on the corner of Lakemont Avenue and S.R. 426.
“Preemptive action is needed to ensure that Park Ave remains metro Orlando’s premier ‘Main Street’ experience in the minds of Central Florida residents, given the ascendancy of newer competitors such as Winter Garden, Mt. Dora, etc.” the report states.
The report also calls on Rollins College to help improve the Fairbanks Avenue area as a gateway to the small liberal arts campus.
“Fairbanks Avenue has long ranked as Winter Park’s most underwhelming commercial corridor, yet it is the prime gateway to Park Avenue as well as the front door to Rollins College, which would seem to have the mandate, the incentive and the financial wherewithal to reinvigorate the two-block stretch it primarily owns and controls so as to better compete with prospective students, professors and researchers (as well as engender good will as a tax-exempt institution)—similar to
how many other elite colleges and universities across the country, in partnership with local government, have acted aggressively to elevate their surroundings for such purpose (even at the expense of their portfolio’s operating margins),” states the report.
The recommendations are scheduled as an item for discussion on Wednesday’s City Commission agenda.
See who’s moving up
Longtime Planning & Zoning Director Jeff Briggs is retiring and Allison McGillis will step into the role after serving as assistant director and preparing for the succession for 14 months. McGillis graduated from Rollins College with a degree in Environmental Studies and Civic Urbanism and a master’s degree in Civic Urbanism. She holds certifications from the Congress for New Urbanism and is a member of American Institute of Certified Planners. Briggs served the city for 45 years and will take on a role as a consultant.
Peter Moore, division director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Pam Russell, division director of Human Resources, will take on the elevated titles of director for their respective departments after a recent pay and benefit study recommended the changes.
Moore joined the city in 2006 and has served in a number of roles. He holds an economics and history degree from Furman University and an MBA from Rollins. Russell joined the city in 2021 and graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University and served in the Army.
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