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.
Parking should no longer be an issue. Why hold other applicants to a standard not applied equally to Rollins? Unfair on its face. Rollins has added 70 + hotel rooms, a spa, a museum and a business school without providing the needed parking. Re-purposing of the library with its 66 existing parking spaces and room for 40 more should not be a problem. Residents are the true owners of the old library building and land. Residents should not be asked to provide a parking “subsidy” to Rollins College. To require any applicant to meet a different standard is hypocrisy. The parking shell game continues. The unstated goal is to have the CRA spend millions to park Rollins’ uses by building a garage nearby.
Something like this perhaps?
When we moved to Winter Park in 1983, parking was a problem and still is. An obvious way to help with the parking issue is to convert the old library property to a multi story parking garage. This could be a city owned garage which would require financing, but better yet it could be sold to a Rollins College entity (if Rollins wants it) with the sale proceeds going to pay down debt on the new library or reduce mileage rate on real estate taxes. Giving the property to the other non profits that applied will increase on going costs to the city. Rollins College is an important part of the history of Winter Park and continues to be an important part such as with the new Museum that will be free to all with an art collection of about 5,600 pieces of art.
“Free art” versus parking nightmares? How to balance? You suggest City of WP , meaning WP city taxpayers would “get to” pay $7-10 million dollars to build that parking deck FOR Rollins to use. Hmmm. An equivalent “work around” would be to sell the old library to Rollins and let them use their money to build their garage. So interesting because they just built one across the street with hundreds of spaces. And they just keep saying they have no interest in the old library. It’s just a multi-million dollar value white elephant. In the heart of the City.
I think a parking garage is way overdue and this would be a perfect spot for one.
Parking? You’re talking about parking? Seriously. If there is an “arts cooperative” there will be no parking problem b/c nobody will be using it except the participants. Snooze Fest.
A 33,000 sf building is an asset that shouldn’t be squandered. I have a feeling this is going to another taxpayer funded gambit by Anderson and Co. (like Pointless Park) to reward friends and mock opponents. (And it’s never their own money. They use taxpayer money)
The city should sell the old library to the highest bidder (ie not Rollins in some sweetheart deal…or they can just pony up and pay market price for it if they want it). Then the funds should be used to pay down the bond on the new library. Errr excuse me, the events center. Anyone else find the interior finishes in the building lackluster and sterile? Admittedly I haven’t been in the events center part (the true purpose of the building I suspect) but the parts of the library I saw during early voting were pretty uninspiring considering we had a European architecture God on our taxpayer funded payroll.
If Winter Park sold the old but well-loved library to the highest bidder there would have to be a set of rules for its use, or who knows how the now heavily populated and traffic laden corner could end up to cause more and varied problems. We would not wish the seller to be blinded by only dollar signs.
Rollins is gonna get it. Just you wait and see. Anyone with a brain could see that before they even moved the library.