Six nonprofits seek space in old library
Vocal arts group, space museum and theater among contenders to redevelop New England Avenue property
By Beth Kassab
A half dozen nonprofits declared interest in the old Winter Park Library site, answering the city’s call for concepts to remake the old building into a space with an arts and culture component.
The letters of interest to reuse or demolish the 33,000-square-foot former library are scheduled to be discussed at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting along with a separate call for concepts to develop space above the parking lot at the new Seven Oaks Park.
The commission set several guidelines for concepts related to plans for the 1.75-acre library site. Preference will be given to ideas that keep the first floor free of any residential units, don’t require any off-site parking and preserve the oak tree on the east side of the building.
Parking is likely to become a central issue in light of the commission’s recent approval of Rollins College’s plans to build a new art museum and business graduate school nearby as the Alfond Inn undergoes an expansion.
The ideas submitted for the old library site include:
- Central Florida Vocal Arts and Opera del Sol. The nonprofit currently without a permanent space is looking to use the entire building to create an arts cooperative that would include the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra and Emotions Dance. The group led by Theresa Smith-Levin stated it is willing to negotiate a lease for the space and does not intend to use it as a main performance venue. Central Florida Vocal Arts included several letters of support for its concept and said it has funding support from several high-profile philanthropic organizations such as the Edyth Bush Foundation, United Arts of Central Florida and the Ginsburg Foundation.
- SkyBuilders 4 All. The group led by Executive Director Carissa Villa describes itself as seeking community development and housing solutions and says it will need about 1,000 square feet for office and project space. The group also provides personal and business financial education.
- Saving Our Aeronautical Resources Museum. SOAR is a new nonprofit created to inspire kids to go into STEM fields with a special emphasis on space exploration. The group says it will have “generous contributions” from NASA, the U.S. Air Force, Boeing and Kennedy Space Center for an estimated $3 million “build out.” The total cost of the museum is $10.5 million, according to the documents submitted. The idea is to host school field trips and other groups to engage more kids in scientific fields. Ravi Margasahayam, an aerospace engineer who spent 35 years with NASA; Gary Duce, president of Space Training Academy & Research and Susan Omoto, executive director at Casa Feliz, are behind the proposal.
- Winter Park History Museum. The well-known group is looking to expand its current space from about 900 square-feet to about 5,000-square-feet for a mix of permanent and rotating exhibits and office space.
- Winter Park Playhouse. The community theater that is losing its lease next year has expressed interest in potential space at Seven Oaks Park, but also submitted a letter of interest for the old library. It is seeking to use about a third of the old building for a 150-175-seat theater.
- Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. The group is looking for about 1,500 square-feet for permanent office and meeting space to manage one of Winter Park’s best-known annual events.