“What If there Were No Buildings?”
Progress Point Park Gets Thumbs Up – No RFP
by Anne Mooney / August 16, 2021
Kicking off yet another discussion at the August 11 Commission meeting of what to do with Progress Point, Mayor Phil Anderson posed the question, “What if there were no buildings?”
Will there be an RFP?
While the agenda item for last Wednesday’s meeting referred to a “Continuation of Progress Point & Potential RFP,” this Commission finally heard the question: What IF there were no buildings? As Commissioners discussed the possibilities at Progress Point, the question of the Request for Proposal (RFP) and built structures took a back seat to the desire for open green space and the need for parking for existing businesses in the area.
Commissioner Todd Weaver explained that the Commission agreed to limit future buildings on Progress Point to 9 percent Floor Area Ratio (FAR) – which translates to about 14,000 square feet on two floors. “We didn’t go out with an RFP,” said Weaver, “because if the current parking needs for existing businesses are met, there is no space for parking an additional 14,000 square feet of commercial space without building a parking garage.”
There will be no RFP and no buildings on Progress Point Park – at least, not for now.
Progress Point has a bit of history
For years, discussions leading up to Wednesday night’s meeting had to do with what could or should be built on Progress Point, an oddly shaped piece of property the City acquired in a controversial 2011 land swap in which the City traded to CNL Bank the large rectangular parcel across from the new Library-Events Center at the northwest corner of Denning Dr. and Morse Blvd. for the scruffy plot down by the railroad tracks on South Denning. The parcel on Denning and Morse, once home to the old State Office Building, now boasts a shiny new building full of Class A office space. Progress Point is looking better, too, since uninhabitable buildings were cleared and the grass is cut regularly.
Natural Environment vs. Built Environment
Plans for Progress Point, which until now were all about the so-called ‘built environment,’ stalled when the Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO) ordinance was rescinded. A recent citizen petition with more than 500 signatures called for the City to ‘Keep It [Progress Point] Green.’ Petition organizers pointed out that of the four options for Progress Point previously presented by City planners, not one was a park – a natural environment as opposed to a built environment. The possibility of putting just a park there, with no buildings in it, had not been considered.
Phased Organic Approach
On August 11, the Commissioners gave Progress Point that consideration. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper urged her fellow Commissioners to adopt what she called a phased, organic approach. “We should slow this process down,” said Cooper. “Let’s take care of the park, the storm water treatment, realign Palmetto Avenue, build the bike and pedestrian path and make sure there is adequate parking for the existing businesses.”
Enter Orange Avenue Merchants Association
Once the park is in place, said Cooper, the Commission should support the Orange Avenue merchants in their efforts to activate the park. “Give them a chance to take ownership,” she said, “and see what they want the park to be.”
Progress Point becomes a park
For the time being, Commissioners agreed to build a park with paths and large mature shade trees. Park amenities will include the realignment of Palmetto Avenue closer to the railroad tracks, which will increase space for parking, green space and a bike and pedestrian path. Decorative lighting will be installed for safety and aesthetics along paths and in parking lots. Approximately 120 parking spaces will be provided for park users and existing businesses, and parking will be free of charge. No decision has been reached about City funding for a park maintenance building or restrooms for park users, but discussion of these amenities is ongoing.
OAO completion scheduled for late November – early December 2021
The Orange Avenue Overlay ordinance is tentatively scheduled for a second and final reading in late fall of this year. There is cautious optimism that ongoing litigation between the City and major landowners Demetree and Holler will wind up, and the OAO will finally become a reality.
City Planning and Transportation Director Bronce Stephenson estimates that tree planting in the park could begin as soon as December 2021, and that park plans would be completed for Commission approval by first quarter 2022.
Green space with paths and shade trees located midway between two potentially high-density developments will give residents respite. As one citizen commenter observed, “We don’t need to activate the park; we need the park to activate the corridor. Imagine what Park Avenue would be without Central Park.”
A Park at Progress Point will greatly enhance that area. YES, make it a charming park to enhance Winter Park !!!
Using 4 acres of land in a commercial zone with no residents for a park only serves the interests of the commercial interests and a few avid “park at any cost” crazy people.
This land is worth in the neighborhood of $8,000,000 under existing zoning that could be used for improvements to existing parks and other amenities that directly benefit Winter Park residents.
Pete is the ultimate PR guy.
Anderson is attempting to drag out discussions on Progress Point and the Post Office until after the 2022 City Commission elections when development advocates may take at least one seat from the residents.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with the words like, “What if there were no buildings?”
Anderson has been long on promises and short on delivering to the residents ever since he took office.
His assigned task as a Chamber mole is to sedate the same residents that Leary, Sprinkel, and Weldon stirred up.
Then in March 2022 with a new City Commission, dear old Phil will play dumb, “Gosh, we tried. I don’t know what happened. We worked really hard to get Progress Point and the Post Office done before the election but we just ran out of time.”
Beware this sly fox.
I am so pleased! The original idea of the OAO was to “enhance and promote existing businesses”, provide extra parking, and pedestrian friendly area . It suddenly became a massive commercial enterprise with megalithic commercial buildings. I am glad we are returning to the original concept.
Carolyn Cooper is and has been a great gift to the city. She will be termed out of office in March of 2022 since that will be the end of her fourth term. I do hope she stays active in city governance in some way even after her term ends.
Henry, The citizens have no idea how much we will miss Carolyn. She has been such a gift to all of us for twelve years.
Thank you, Henry Harlow, for saying what so many of us feel but don’t express often enough. Winter Park Magazine got it right when Cooper was named in the first ever list of “Influentials”. For a dozen years, she has been “our voice”. I could never blame her if she walked away, but my prayer is that she will remain involved. Her approach to staging development, if any, in Progress Point was a great solution. My hope is that Progress Point will stay green.
#parkatanycost crazy person
Aren’t we fortunate to have thoughtful leaders who support carving out park space on a city property for-the-people versus swapping or selling it to benefit developers. What a relief and change of attitude after 12 long years of the Leary and Bradley Commissions.
Peter J. Weldon’s argument that funds raised by selling Progress Point to developers today could benefit other city parks is ironic given his record.
During his tenure, I don’t recall him promising to steer proceeds from land transactions towards park improvements ever. His strategy was always to up zone Winter Park without public directives for the money raised.
Moreover, he once had the opportunity to sell Progress Point – in his words – “for improvements to existing parks and other amenities that directly benefit WP residents.” Yet his scorn and vindictiveness clouded any partnership between the City and the developer. They didn’t even have the business sense to counter that offer so we’ll never know his ideas for those proceeds.
If only we had a vaccine to inoculate the residents from Pitt Weldon’s commentary on Winter Park Voice.
I am not in agreement! We do NOT need another Park. Winter Park has been blessed with many parks already. While I am not in favor of some of the Orange Overlay, I believe progress point needs to be developed in the style of our city (not like the library) and bring in tax revenue. Cities have to responsibly develop and the land is too valuable to stay a park. Again, Phil, Todd & Carolyn are listening to the few people who helped get them elected and not in the best interests of this city.
Lol. The property taxes are more than enough to generate revenue in Winter Park. The town isn’t a cash register, to forsake the quality of the community. Move to Baldwin Park if thats what you want.
4,244 Winter Park residents helped Phil Anderson get elected. How? By voting for him. About 200 residents donated to Anderson’s campaign. The winning message was “putting residents first.” About 500 residents signed a petition asking for maximum greenspace at Progress Point. When I hear people say “There are more than enough parks in Winter Park already,” I wonder. What is it about ever more concrete, glass and asphalt that resonates with you? I want to understand. We don’t need money. The tax base is more than solid.
This is one of the funniest posts I’ve seen in a long time! OF COURSE the Commissioners mentioned are listening to the people who got them elected! And it wasn’t just “a few” people. Bradley, Leary, Weldon, et al ALSO listened to the people – the development posse – who got them elected! That’s politics, kiddo!
Exact same sized parcel was turned into a park in Beverly Hills CA. Called Will Rodgers Park. It’s fantastic. Please see the video below.
No more garbage “mixed blight” development in Winter Park. There’s enough along 17-92. Why the hell do we need more traffic and congestion. For some developer’s gain?!
My favorite things about Winter Park are the quality of life and the presence of nature. The addition of a park is priceless. More retail and restaurants that can be found anywhere does nothing to enhance our city. Let’s preserve what is uniquely ours.
Keep talking like that and somebody will ask you to run for a City Commission seat.
I was about to do just that. Asked William Deuchler too when he posted his comment.
Perfectly stated Mary Margaret
The City should keep a Green Inventory, like it does a tree canopy inventory.
They can tell you how many trees in Winter Park.
But they don’t know how many acres of green. And no way to report how many acres of green have been lost during the past nine years.
When somebody buys a 1,000 sq. ft. concrete block house on a quarter acre lot and builds a McMansion, the expanded home isn’t the only “green eater.”
They’ll get ’em a big ol’ cement pond in the back to swim around in, a deck to boot, and build ’em a double wide driveway to roll in their his and hers SUV’s.
Then they’ll top it off with somethin’ they call “art’ or a fountain in the front to impress the neighbors don’t cha know. And perty soon, you need you a magonifying glass to find any green!
The problem in Winter Park is always the same.
Once the residents get “one of their own” on the City Commission they just assume that individual is going to preserve Winter Park.
Trees are important. But what happened was that well-meaning Commissioners obsessed about trees, bemoaning when they were taken down, and demanding that they be replaced, while the same Commissioners surrendered Winter Park’s surface green to the developers.
You can’t plant surface green like you can plant a tree.
The only way you can get more surface green is to tear down existing buildings and replace them with grass, shrubs, etc.
So as a practical matter, once green is gone, it’s GONE.
Many Winter Park residents suffer from a kind of cognitive dissonance or “Stockholm syndrome” as it is sometimes called.
Wanting to believe the best in their City Commissioners, they see only good in them, and only much later begin to notice the the damage that their excessive development policies have done to Winter Park.
Progress Point is the residents’ “line in the sand.”
If the City Commission takes away the 5.1 acre green opportunity at P.P. residents are not going to be happy about it.
“Less Bad” is not good.
It’s just “Less Bad.”
Winter Park residents want a “Good” development policy from their City Commission.
WP: The Shade Capital of Florida
Here’s an idea: why not aspire to make Winter Park the Shade Capital for our region? Greenways, walkways, jogging paths, greenspace, all shaded and in certain spots–in a month like August–cooled off with misters. That incorporates a strategic inventory of our tree canopy and advance planning when it gets “timed out” and needs to be replaced: a project for next generations. Think about walking, biking , jogging from Park Avenue/Central Park to Orange Avenue/OAO/Progress Point– all underneath a partial or strategically-placed protective cover. It can happen!
I can’t decide. Trees or concrete? Maybe I will go with WPVoter and go for more concrete and BUILDINGS at Progress Point. I saw ’em posting about Progress Point on Instagram and thought, yeah… who needs green space or shade when you can have BUILDINGS?! Bring on the heat! Go away trees and grass.