Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Keep It Green!

by Guest Columnist Charley Williams / August 6, 2021

I invite this commission to put on their long-range visioning glasses and gaze five to ten years into the future — though many would say that falls short of “long-range.”

Orange Avenue Overlay will evolve

In 2030 I envision Orange Ave. as a walking mall, with no cars but plenty of cafes and other dining options. In fact, the OAO could evolve into a second downtown. If large property holders move forward we could have a hotel with outdoor seating, food and music.

Should the Jewett holding be sold to a retail development arm, we could have an entertainment zone as an anchor. Time will tell. Significant property ownership transfers are already underway.

Evolution requires green space

These pressures bring into sharp focus the need for passive, quiet green space, not just for existing neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity, but also for the tenants of new condo and rental properties still in the planning phases.

Link in the Emerald Necklace

Let’s zero in on the 4.5 acres at Progress Point — a logical keystone in the evolving ‘green necklace’ of the pedestrian-bike trail that will connect Mead Garden with Denning with MLK, Jr. Park and beyond.  Progress Point is the poster child for how that plan can emerge and blossom. It’s a brand identifier for our community.

What do citizens want on Progress Point?

The question now is on asset development of the Progress Point real estate. What do citizens want? We’ve heard references to retail space ranging from 7,000 to 13,000 square feet to upwards of 40,000 square feet—the size of a Publix. But none of these recommendations came from residents.

We run the risk of setting up an East End Market scenario, which often turns into a drive-by because there is overtaxed parking capacity and a plethora of ‘attitude’ signs from the neighbors warning against illegal parking.

Original purpose of Overlay was to benefit existing business

How do you control noise and congestion with a micro-brewery and rooftop live music after the sun goes down? Not to mention overflow parking and traffic pressures for the immediate nearby neighborhoods and parking displacement for the existing businesses on the avenue. Wasn’t that the original objective to begin with – to protect and benefit the existing businesses? Why the mission drift?

Are you putting residents first?

What’s now being proposed can totally change that neighborhood character. Is this what this Commission wants to be saddled with—when many of your campaigns promised to put residents first?

A 14,000-square-foot venue drives the need for more parking. Why do that? We have already identified parking as a priority service for existing businesses. Let’s address the needs of existing Orange Avenue businesses first, before taking any action on new development.

Test your assumptions with the voters

To date, the Commission has spent months putting crayon marks on a Progress Point master plan, but not once have they invited citizen input.

There is no other existing Winter Park park with a retail component within its boundaries.

How about a Pilot Program

One possible compromise would be to pilot the micro-retail experiment first with Cady Way Trail and Showalter Field to give cyclists, joggers and sports enthusiasts options for food and drink. There is a much larger park footprint to work with there.

How has this commission changed from the last one?

Many of us watched as two structures ate up 26 percent of MLK, Jr. Park and occasioned the removal of over 50 mature trees that provided much-needed shade. One result of that long and torturous fight was the demonstration of the will of the citizens to change the direction of the Commission. At least now, there is not a four-story office building with associated parking structure of equal size slated for Progress Point.

Keep it green!

But it’s time to swing the pendulum further. Keep what we have green and start looking for more future sources of open greenspace.

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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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