Winter Park Sings the Parking Blues
Fuzzy Parking Math Doesn’t Add Up
The March 27 Commission meeting shows what can happen when a city like Winter Park tries to solve a systemic parking problem one project at a time. Things don’t work out the way everyone thinks they’re going to.
The 133,830 square feet of commercial development sent forth March 7 by the Planning & Zoning Board arrived at the City Commission March 27. The meeting, which began at 3:30 pm, lasted until nearly midnight. By 10:30 or so, many of the people who were still hanging in there were scratching their heads. The remarks in these video clips, which occurred toward the end of the meeting, tell the tale.
Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, “We Can’t Kick This Can Down the Road Much Longer.”
Rick Frazee, “Nothing’s changed.”
Joe Terranova, “You can’t fit a size 10 foot into a size 6 shoe.”
Pat MacDonald, “This has been a very different evening than we all expected.”
Three Projects All Too Big for Their Parking Lots
Three large commercial construction projects – Orchard Supply Hardware at 2540 Aloma Avenue, Villa Tuscany Memory Care Center at 1298 Howell Branch Road, and the BFC Holdings project at 158 E. New England Avenue – shared the agenda with a presentation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). All three construction applicants sought variances because of insufficient parking.
Orchard Strikes Out
First up was Lowe’s subsidiary Orchard Hardware Supply, to be built on the current location of the Aloma Bowl. Orchard needed a total of 135 parking spaces. They had 87 spaces on site and could lease 24 additional spaces from neighboring Panera Bread, leaving them 24 spaces short.
Strong opposition came from the bowlers, represented by Winter Park High School bowling team captain Danielle Allison. Ms. Allison and her volunteers had gathered nearly 3,000 signatures of citizens seeking to keep the facility open as a bowling alley. The sale of Aloma Bowl to Orchard was contingent on Commission approval.
Despite the Commissioners’ understanding and their admiration for Ms. Allison’s tenacity, at the end of the day, Orchard’s fortunes rose and fell on parking. After discussion and citizen commentary, the Commission voted to deny the application, pointing out that if the applicant would consider a smaller building, their parking dilemma would go away.
The following day, Ms. Allison told the Voice that she hoped Aloma Bowl would remain open for the community, but she said she did not know the owner’s plans for the building. The owner of Aloma Bowl could not be reached for comment.
Villa Tuscany – Too Big Not to Fail
Next up was the Villa Tuscany Memory Care Center at 1298 Howell Branch Road. This was to be a 41,000-square-foot memory care and assisted living project that would be built on land zoned R-3, high density residential, that sits adjacent to a single-family residential neighborhood. The neighbors had well-organized opposition, not to the proposed use of the facility, but to the size and scale, which they said was incompatible with the surroundings.
Even though residents of the facility would not have cars, plans for the facility did not provide adequate parking on site for staff and visitors. The applicant would be able to lease the missing parking spaces, but those were on the other side of Howell Branch Road.
Commissioner Peter Weldon broached the possibility of tabling the project and allowing the applicant to come back at a later date with revised plans for a smaller project. Weldon failed to receive a second for his motion, however, and the Commission voted 5 – 0 to deny the application, pointing out once again that a smaller project would obviate the need for extra parking.
BFC Holdings New England Ups the Ante
By the time attorney Mickey Grindstaff approached the podium on behalf of the Battaglia family’s 52,000-spare-foot project at 158 E. New England Avenue, tension in the chamber was palpable. While the BFC Holdings project had City staff support, P&Z had sent the project forward with no recommendation.
Staff recommended reducing the parking requirement from the four spaces per 1,000 square feet of office/ retail, called for by City Code, to three per thousand. Planning Director Dori Stone explained that staff was comfortable allowing fewer parking spaces. “In a downtown setting,” she said, “Class A Office, which is a different breed of office than we have in a lot of other places in Winter Park . . . can support three spaces per thousand, because the way they operate is different, the way their customer base is different, the way they function, look and feel is different than a typical office.”
Ms. Stone did not elaborate on what those differences might be. Planning Manager Jeff Briggs acknowledged that no other building in Winter Park enjoyed this reduction in parking requirement.
Winter Park Needs Another Parking Study
Stone recognized the need for further study of how parking functions in downtown Winter Park. “No matter how you count the spaces,” she said, “downtown Winter Park has parking issues.” Staff will embark on the fourth parking study in seven years – which those in the know believe will result in a recommendation for some sort of parking structure in the Central Business District.
Don’t Tie Parking Regulations to a Specific Project
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper admonished staff that if the City’s parking code needs to be reviewed, the discussion should take place outside the context of a specific project to avoid placing both the applicant and the Commissioners in a difficult position. “If staff truly supports a change in code,” she said, “they should bring us an ordinance, supported by data, so that we have the opportunity to evaluate a change in the parking code.”
‘How Much Longer ‘til Everyone Goes to the Mall?’
Grindstaff noted that BFC Holdings is being asked unfairly to shoulder a city-wide problem. But it is not just the BFC project that is suffering. Alan Deaver, a merchant and property owner in downtown Winter Park, collected signatures from 45 Park Avenue merchants who are being squeezed by the parking deficit and who will be severely impacted by the BFC Holdings project. “How much longer until everyone goes to the mall?” he wanted to know.
Not Ready for Prime Time
Using the new math, BFC New England would need 133 spaces for office and retail, and an additional 95 spaces for the two restaurants planned for the ground floor of the new building. The developer plans to put 57 spaces on site and to use 90 spaces in the Bank of America parking garage across the street, which they also own. The 90 B-of-A spaces would be available only by valet, as the garage is closed to the public.
Using the newly contrived formula, BFC is short 81 parking spaces. Compare this with the 24 spaces Orchard was short and the four spaces Villa Tuscany was short. It’s worth pointing out that by existing code, to which the other projects were held, the BFC project is short 121 spaces.
Mayor Steve Leary finally showed mercy on those assembled by moving to table the BFC Holdings application. His motion passed on a 5 – 0 vote. The BFC New England project will now make its way back through City Planning staff. There is no scheduled date for its return to the Commission.
What is the Big Deal? Requirements for new construction is 1 issue. Parking capacity for current retail, restaurant, office spaces is another. Keep them separate. Taxpayers should not be building parking for new construction. In my opinion, more parking is needed for current level of Park Ave. use. I’d like to see another deck built above current lot behind train station. But no new construction should be able to use that capacity. It’ pretty simple. This shouldn’t be a problem. Build a new parking deck and make everyone follow the rules.
Pitt, you are a good citizen but you have forwarded a poor planning suggestion by a lay person untrained in urban and park design. Please consider sticking with the commission and public’s approved Central Park Master Plan where that city land you suggest is all the West Meadow ultimately for resident’s park use. When and if the community decides on a new parking garage, or not, then there are other more viable places for a new garage than in the planned Central Park, and at much less cost. When you speak out like this you are a current day representative of Charles Morse’s Winter Park Land Company. It is my opinion Mr. Morse would not like you pushing to impact his park and our city’s current day city approved park expansion with another ugly parking garage. I have seen that the current publicly designated garage parking spaces beside Panera’s is usually empty. Do you and your employees, and your neighboring businesses park your cars in those public spaces versus on Park Avenue? The city paid for those “Panera’s garage” parking spaces for your use so your good customers could park on Park Avenue.
OK, build it somewhere else. My point is we need more parking for 11-3 pm and special events. The lot behind the RR station seems to be one I hear the most about. If you know of a location that is closer to the Avenue and would be cheaper to build, go for it. Our company uses the parking badges given out by city for use by employees and we have 4 private spaces. Expecting people to park on the 5th floor of a parking garage and walk three blocks to an appointment is probably the future of WP in 30 years. Today, it’s unrealistic. I’d like to keep any future parking structures relatively small and camouflaged. The lot behind RR station (I was told ) would be candidate for 1st level below grade and the 2nd story at about 8-10′ height. I hope a garage is coming. In any close-in location.
Pitt, more public parking might put more money in your pocket, but what about us? We just want to have our city back.
I say no more parking. Instead put speed bumps at the entrances to downtown Winter Park. Really big speed bumps. The kind that people would scrape the underside of their cars on if they drive more than 5 mph over them.
And not just one either. Line up 2 or 3 of them at every entrance to downtown Winter Park. That would discourage people from coming in to Winter Park from Interstate 4 and 17-2, and Aloma, and 436, and clogging our roadways. I thought it was terrible that they fixed the railroad crossings. Those were like a moat that freaked out the strangers that were speeding into town. Now we lost our moat! Why did they take our moat away? We need more potholes too. Real big ones. Why does the city keep filling them in downtown? Leave them alone. So people from out of town will drive their car into them and have to call for road service. Then they’d never come back and that would be one more parking space available, and they’d tell their friends and that would free up some more parking spaces. See how easy it is, once you define what the real problem is?
This is not 1959, Pitt, when Winter Park was trying to get on the map. We are already on the map. Everyone’s map. That’s the problem. We need to get off people’s short list of where to go in Central Florida. All these cars coming to Winter Park is wrecking our quality of life, making us indistinguishable from Orlando. And speed bumps are the answer.
We don’t need another restaurant, or candy store, or office building. We don’t need a parking garage.
Speed bumps are a lot cheaper than building a parking garage. Speed bumps fix the problem. A parking garage only hides the real problem. And the city could save money by not filling potholes around downtown too. Those two things would really help Winter Park.
We thought bricking the streets would help keep the rascals away, and they did for while. But now the cars are pouring in to town like cockroaches. Pitt, will you help us get the City Commission to budget for, I don’t know, fifty, a hundred maybe, 8-inch high speed bumps between Webster, Fairbanks, Interlachen, and Pennsylvania for the next fiscal year? Let’s get this done, for the good of Winter Park!
I’m not saying keep the speed bumps up for ever. Put some of those rubber tubes on the roads to count the number of cars that come into downtown. Then once the number of cars is less than half what it is now, they could slowly take away some of the speed bumps.
But right now we have a traffic crisis, not a parking crisis. And the solution to a traffic crisis, is less cars, not more parking. And speed bumps would really get rid of a lot of the rubberneckers who come into Winter Park with nothing better to do in life.
Pitt, and as a personal favor to you, I request that the city not put any speed bumps directly on your private parking space in downtown Winter Park. Because none of us have our own private parking space in downtown, like you do. And I know how having a private parking space for yourself, as well as how having a Park Avenue business, must influence how you think about parking, garages, development, and the residents. But , what you have to realize is that there are more people in town than just yourself and your real estate buddies. And more traffic coming into Winter Park may float your boat, but it sinks ours. Pitt, trust me, you will like the speed bumps, once the city installs them next year, I promise you will. Just remember to drive real slow over them and everything will be fine. Just like rockin’ the baby. Have a nice day!
It’s not my personal parking space, but I wish it was!
And I’d like to put license plate readers up at the entrance to our city so every miscreant is caught before entering.
If you don’t want a parking garage vote against it. But you have to register and use your name so that may be a prob.
Looks like our favorite Park Avenue real estate informant may have just tipped Leary’s hand about his 2018 re-election campaign strategy.
Leary has a problem. A big problem. Lots of voters don’t like the traffic mess Leary’s policies as mayor have created for Winter Park. So, if we read between the lines correctly, Leary plans to run on a parking platform, and hopes that the residents will just forget that during his 7 years on the Commission he has stalled, deferred, and thwarted numerous attempts at traffic solutions.
In his 2018 campaign, it appears, Leary plans to play the traffic hero, by leading another bond referendum, this time for parking garage(s). Defining the “solution” to the “parking” problem, Leary will bank on Winter Park voters believing his con that parking is the problem and that if the parking garage is built, at taxpayer expense of course, that the traffic problem will go away.
It’s a con that’s worked before in Winter Park. Just look at all the parking that has been built. But, since Leary’s campaign game plan has been revealed a year early, the residents have lots of time to research just how many times Leary has said no to any meaningful traffic reform. And how many times Leary has said yes to making Winter Park a traffic magnet nightmare, with every project and promotion he has approved.
It seems like Leary only offers “solutions” that include more concrete and more debt. Leary’s latest parking game is a Hail Mary pass, as his library plans gather dust in appeals court limbo.
Thanks again to our favorite Park Avenue real estate informant for the tip. We knew with all the times he comments on here that he’d eventually say something that we could all learn from. Now, all the residents have to do is recruit someone (hopefully under 70 years old) to challenge Leary for mayor in 2018.
Almost everyone agrees that Winter Park is stuck in the “Park” gear. But this debate should be about, whether Winter Park should A) Leave it in “Park,” or B) Change gears to “Neutral”, “Drive,” or put it into “Reverse.”
The fixation on “Park” or more specifically “Parking Deficit” can lead to only one thing – more parking. And “More Parking” like “Library” always has a way of sounding like a big smiley face.
Only problem is, Winter Park has the traffic congestion mess that it now has in the Central Business District, precisely because of prior decisions to expand parking. When will we learn?
Increased parking garage space doesn’t alleviate traffic. It invites traffic.
Increased parking garage space doesn’t “balance” or “soften” development. It makes development denser and more imposing.
Increased parking garage space doesn’t appease the Chamber folks. It only makes them hungrier to add more and more concrete, glass, and steel in the Central Business District.
Your car has 4 gears. You probably use “Reverse” at least once or twice a day, maybe more. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t get very far. If you didn’t, you’d run into something if you hit the gas.
The solution to Central Business District parking, after about 130 years of our City focusing on “Drive” and “Park,” might well be to put this race car in “Reverse” before it spins out of control. Because, unlike Daytona, there is no retaining wall here. Disaster awaits at high speeds. And the residents don’t have their seat belts fastened for the avalanche of traffic ahead should parking be expanded here.
Want a new code?
How about this one: “Parking spaces are prohibited as part of any new development in the Central Business district.”
Let the developers build without any parking. Only one catch: New Charter Amendment: “No new parking structure shall be built in the Central Business District – ever.”
Sure, let them build. Good luck to them renting the building with no place for their tenants to park – ever. With no parking and no corporate welfare from the residents to pay for a City parking garage for their tenants – ever, they’d be foolish to build. And if Commissioners told them “NO means “NO” developers would find another sucker in another town to sing their “Class A” song to.
Moral of the story:
More Parking Garages = Kicking the Can Down The Road
“Reverse” = Problem solved
I think your analysis is a clunker. “How about this one: “Parking spaces are prohibited as part of any new development in the Central Business district.”” Those are the rules. Are you up to speed on the current rules?
Those who brought their toothpicks to the meeting Monday to prop their eyelids open, were treated to political theater late in the evening. Though “scam” may be to harsh (or too accurate) a description, what we saw Monday was a version of the classic “Three Shell Game” con job.
The way it works is the con artist tells the victim to keep their eyes on the shell that the pea is under as the con artist moves them around the table. But the victim, not realizing that its a trick, picks the wrong one.
Monday’s performers told us to “Look at the Parking!” But the pea was never under the Parking. It was under the Building Height all the time.
Prior City Commissions, in their wisdom, built in a density “firewall” in the two story limit without Commission approval rule. But some cunning Commissioners and assorted performers distracted our attention from the two story limit and got us to focus however briefly on Parking. By this they hoped to dupe us into popping for a taxpayer funded City parking garage, while gaining approval for up to 50% more density on the property than anyone in their right mind would agree to.
Did you “feel the neeeeed?”
By scheduling the New England vote as the last item of business, they schemed that any sensible Commissioner would be so weary by the time it was finally discussed, debated, and hashed out, that they too would fall victim to the scam and demand “More Municipal Parking!” just out of delirium if nothing else.
Other distractions included the “Class A” discussion. The proposed building won’t be on Park Ave., so the “Class” will be unnoticed by and irrelevant to virtually all residents and visitors who may venture near it. And one of the more hilarious gems of the late night spectacle was the offer of other parking spaces from the building across the street? Did anyone bother to ask, what if the current owner sells the building across the street? Or what if the deal, ends up in court and whoever the owner across the street is gets a good lawyer and finds away to back out of any agreements to provide parking to the new building – after it’s been built? Same owner today does not mean same owner tomorrow.
Don’t play the Three Shell Game. Too many moving parts. Make this simple.
1) Approve a maximum TWO story building. Class A, Class B, Class C, Classy Jazz. Classy Cats. Whatever. Who cares? We’ll concede any building in Winter Park is classy for the sake of peace in the family.
2) BYOP – BRING YOUR OWN PARKING! Not parking from across the street. Not your grandmother’s parking at Whispering Waters. Not parking from your hair stylist on Lee Road. Not a new City parking garage, deck, or cave, 5 feet or 5 miles away. All the required parking MUST be within the lot of the proposed new building minus setbacks. Period.
Stick to these two points and next Commission meeting should end by 4:30. And if they bring their three shell game back the dais, tell them you’re tired of their games and so are the residents! And tell them they can stick their pea and their shells in their ear!
Arbitrarily setting two stories is a down-zoning lawsuit waiting to happen. I’d prefer every parking space be on site but sometimes it’s worth it to leave a few short or a few feet higher. Discretion is the answer.
Editor’s Note: The Winter Park Voice wishes to thank Commissioner Peter Weldon for taking time to address some of the points in this article. Weldon’s letter, which was copied to City Manager Randy Knight, is printed below.
A few points do need clarification.
The Application for Conditional Use, filed January 4, 2017 by Oppidan Holdings LLC on behalf of Orchard Supply and Hardware clearly states that the contract for purchase of the Aloma Bowl property is contingent on City approval.
The Voice did not state or imply that the City approved or denied this development on the basis of its past or future use.
The zoning of the property at 1298 Howell Branch Road is R-3, high density residential, rather than commercial, as previously stated, though the developer intended commercial use of the property. This has been corrected in the body of the article. The Voice noted that the applicant could lease missing parking spaces from property on the other side of Howell Branch road.
From: Pete Weldon
Sent: Apr 2, 2017 3:34 PM
To: anne mooney
Cc: Randy Knight
Subject: Misstatements of Fact
I continue to be dismayed by your presumptive “journalism.” When you send words around town it would be helpful to be accurate so as not to lead people to a false conclusion (unless, of course, that is your intent).
To wit, your recent article “Winter Park Sings the Parking Blues” contains numerous false statements.
“The sale of Aloma Bowl to Orchard was contingent on Commission approval.”
The sales contract is not with Orchard Supply, but with Oppidan Holdings LLC. More importantly, the attorney for Oppidan Holdings LLC made it clear at the meeting that their contract entitles them to purchase the property regardless of commission approval. You mislead your readers.
Despite the Commissioners’ understanding and their admiration for Ms. Allison’s tenacity, at the end of the day, Orchard’s fortunes rose and fell on parking. After discussion and citizen commentary, the Commission voted to deny the application, pointing out that if the applicant would consider a smaller building, their parking dilemma would go away.
The city has no authority to deny a development proposal on the basis that citizens want to keep the use that already exists, as you imply, whether it be a bowling alley or a pool hall. You would do well to educate your readers rather than pander to misunderstandings that mislead your readers. Your carelessness is dangerous. The city would be exposed to legal action if it denied development approvals based on arbitrary considerations.
Next up was the Villa Tuscany Memory Care Center at 1298 Howell Branch Road. This was to be a 41,000-square-foot memory care and assisted living project that would be built on land zoned commercial that is adjacent to a residential neighborhood. The neighbors had well-organized opposition, not to the proposed use of the facility, but to the size and scale, which they said was incompatible with the surroundings.
Even though residents of the facility would not have cars, plans for the facility did not provide adequate parking for staff and visitors. The applicant would be able to lease the missing parking spaces, but those were on the other side of Howell Branch Road.
The zoning is NOT commercial. It is R3. I encourage you to read the code. It is Sec. 58-68. – Medium density multiple-family residential (R-3) district. You can find it here: https://www.municode.com/library/fl/winter_park/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIICOOR_CH58LADECO_ARTIIIZO_S58-68MEDEMUMIREDI. The project proposal met the parking requirement for the intended use under our code as parking can be provided within 300 ft of a project. Your implication that the project was denied in part due to inadequate parking is untrue.
Please stop misleading our residents and, for once, make an effort to be informed.
Under Florida law, email addresses and written correspondence with the city become public record and must be made available to the public….
Pete, your disdain for the Winter Park Voice is well noted, going back to your debate stunt during your campaign (which you won by the slimmest margin). If you are so offended by it, do yourself a favor and refrain from reading it.
You could have made your point cordially and exhibited LEADERSHIP(you know, what you’re supposed to do as an elected official) in your letter to Ms. Mooney; however, you couldn’t help yourself and used your trademark boorish tone and cheap shots. Missed opportunity to show yourself as reasonable and classy.
Thanks for reminding us of your true nature. I wonder how much your blood pressure rose as you penned that “masterpiece.”
Most readers of The Voice appreciate the work that Anne does to help bring issues to light that average Winter Park voters care about. No other outlet covers the City Commission and city elections as well as she does, IMHO.
Any reasonable person recognizes that the intent of the piece was one person’s analysis of the meeting’s outcome, not an intent to mislead.
The lack of class is the most worrisome thing about Commissioner Weldon. Do we really want to put the class and charm of this community into hands like his? Anger doesn’t comport with stewardship.
Unfortunately, we’re stuck with him for a couple more years.
With any luck, he will decide not to run for re-election.
Of course, he has read all of these comments, but decided not to respond.
Probably best – he doesn’t hold a defensible position.
Gee whiz! What a bummer of a response from Commissioner Weldon. I left that meeting after almost 8 hours so proud of our citizens and our Commissioners. These three projects presented very interesting and complicated issues which deserved the care and attention – not to mention stamina – which the Commission exhibited.
During the break, I congratulated Mayor Leary for presiding in such an exemplary manner. Notwithstanding the late hours, citizens were treated patiently even when they had nothing new to offer, and respectfully. Commissioners asked pertinent questions and gave thoughtful responses.
Now this! Why the vitriol and sarcasm? Nit-picking over a careful and comprehensive report which required careful attention for 8 hours!! The rest of us – attendees and Commissioners – could tune out periodically and give our brains a rest. Not Anne Mooney.
I was impressed with the manner in which Mr. Weldon explained to the impressive young advocate for the bowling alley that the market and not the commission determines to whom a buyer can sell. It was a respectful civics lesson delivered in a statesmanlike manner.
What happened? A brief flirtation with civility and maturity apparently, then back to business as usual.
My feeling is that any commissioner ought to be delighted that there is anything remotely like the Winter Park Voice to encourage citizens to be engaged, informed and active in city government and city life. It is an open forum where all may come to engage, read and/or comment. (Unlike your temporarily suspended WP Perspective, posts to the Voice are not culled or screened for content except to exclude profanity and similar.)
Had she identified the zoning of the parcel purchased by Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC in November 2016, as R-3 rather than “commercial” Anne Mooney would have batted a thousand. Don’t call for the hangman just yet, Pete. A minor clarification is all that was needed and you might have simply stated same.
A shorthand reference to “Orchard Supply” or “Orchard” rather than referencing “Oppidan Holdings LLC” was likely very helpful to all readers since the bowling alley site was being ear marked to become WP’s second Orchard Supply (Lowe’s) hardware store. This is especially so where the applicant name “Oppidan” conveys nothing about the contemplated future use. While she referenced Orchard Supply and she referenced Applicant, nowhere did Mooney state that the Applicant was Orchard Supply.
Judging by the angry tone and denigrating tenor of your e-mail one might think that the Voice coverage of the March 27 commission meeting was one long, deliberate attempt to misinform anyone who reads the Voice and to poison the minds of all who visit the website- as though the piece was filled with propaganda or dishonesty.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. Mooney capably distilled down the content of a marathon commission meeting and succinctly and accurately related what transpired there. Not an enviable task when a meeting goes on for nearly EIGHT (8) hours. Notably, other local papers did indeed get it wrong when it came to the laudable efforts of local high school bowler Danielle Allison. Mooney got it right; parking was the issue. (You must have gotten the Voice confused with other local news outlets which did imply that Allison’s efforts affected or secured the outcome.)
BTW, what was your intent in cc’ing your e-mail to Randy Knight?
And, for those who haven’t seen them yet, all the clips from the Battaglia project/ BFC Holdings portion of the meeting are well worth watching. And because it was tabled, this one is definitely coming back. Notably, one merchant (Deaver) obtained signatures from 45 nearby merchants no less, opposing the project. And it was great to see the Mt. Vernon’s Rick Frazee again. He nails it. This project’s parking deficiencies paled in comparison to the other 2 which were denied. And, Pete, your efforts to single handedly breathe life into the ambitions of the Applicant (BFC) were, in a word, remarkable.
I was pleased to read your response to Pete Weldon’s letter to the Voice regarding Anne Mooney’s coverage of the recent Commission Meeting.
Unlike Pete’s whining and nit-picking letter, yours had style and clarity. Thanks for helping to keep the discussions of Winter Park’s politics at a higher plane by courteously dealing in facts.
Keep up the good work.
I was not able to attend the meeting above but was told of the outcome for the Memory Care Facility which has been a concern of mine. I found the other information in the article on projects presented very interesting reading and appreciate Anne Mooney’s summary of what happened for those like me that could not attend. I also found it interesting that Peter Weldon’s comments were pretty “snarky” and appeared to be petty. It almost leads one to believe that maybe the meeting didn’t go as well as he had intended and possibly he was hoping that the big projects could be pushed through without so much opposition. I think the citizens of Winter Park feel we have a “gem of a community” and we are not interested in our town becoming high density buildings and having to circle around again and again to find a place to park. You only have to visit Trader Joe’s once to know this is not the direction we want for Winter Park. It feels like at times our commissioners are more interested in being bigger and better than preserving why Winter Park is so unique in an area where tourist attractions and chain restaurants are more the norm. Whenever I have business clients come to town I make it a point to bring them downtown. I always hear the same thing “This is adorable. I had no idea anything like Winter Park was In the Orlando area”. Why again would we want to take away from this charm and compete with all the other cities for large high density buildings with inadequate parking? The ugly building going up on 17-92 in the old Goodings spot should be enough to make anyone think twice about approving a large building in our community.
The concept of potentially requiring fewer parking spaces, due to the presence of valet parking, intrigued me.
If carried through in fairness, the Commission would also have to make parking space reductions for:
1) An estimated number of office workers or visitors who will walk, ride their bike, carpool, or take the train
2) People who may choose to skateboard, jog, or hitchhike
3) If office workers can bring a note from home saying that their son will give them a ride after his marching band practice
4) A projected number of workers in the future who will jet-pack (think James Bond) to work, or take to the air via a motorized hang glider.
5) Allowing for a potential new “fee based” City service of ambulances giving people rides to work during times when there aren’t any actual emergencies
6) Anyone who owns a boat or knows of anyone who owns a boat, who might pick them up and launch the boat on the chain of lakes, and drop them off at the Morse Blvd. Scenic Boat Tour dock
7) Anyone who owns a “smart” phone, who could potentially summon an Uber, Mears, or pizza delivery man to give them a lift
8) Office workers who iive within 10 miles of New England (“walking distance”), or who own a pair of shoes
9) People who will promise to sleep in their office 4 nights a week to show that they are “green”
10) Anyone who has ever said, “I wish I didn’t have to drive to work every day.”
By the time the list is finished, Commissioners might be convinced to do away with the parking space requirement completely. How old fashioned it is to actually think anyone would drive a CAR to work. This isn’t the 1500’s you know! We are modern today. Nobody drives a car anymore. C’mon just a few teeny tiny parking spaces. No one will notice them missing. Here’s the apple. Just take one little bite…
From hearing some of the presentation at the City Commission meeting, one might get the idea that Winter Park defies the laws of economics!
Take the argument that the New England building will have offices, not cubicles, for example. Go to any “Class A” office building in downtown Orlando, and all you see are cubicles. Sure, you’ll see some offices too, mostly small ones. But cubicles are the norm, offices are the exception.
The way the laws of real estate economics work is that Class A pays the highest rent of all the classes. Businesses operate to make a profit. So, those tenants who choose to rent Class A offices maximize profit by cramming in as many productive employees they can into the smallest amount of Class A space they can (i.e. cubicles). That way the tenant can enjoy the prestige of the Class A office to impress their clients, and grab some mighty spiffy offices for the top dogs, at a cost per employee similar to what they’d pay for a Class B or even Class C office where most everyone would have some more elbow room and probably a door.
Class A normally means more employees per square foot, not less.
I am not disagreeing with your opinion, but I think the city needs to look at our rules regarding parking. The rules were established in 1970’s as a response to Barnett Bank building a 6 story bank. I think everyone would agree offices are organized in 2017 a lot differently than in 1972. I’ll bet the actual use of office space is closer to 3 spaces per thousand sf of office space. But let’s look at the other Class A spaces in WP and downtown and see what the facts are. No use over parking for the sake of a 1970 mentality. Make the rules for all.
Consider this. The proposed New England building would be right in the heart of Winter Park’s financial district. You are correct in saying that things have changed since 1970. In 1970, if you had walked through a floor of the Barnett Bank building you would have seen spacious banker’s offices with scattered secretaries desks out in front of them. Low density for sure.
Compare that with today’s financial trading desks in modern working environments. No offices. No cubicles. Financial executives working shoulder to shoulder with only a desk to themselves – not even cubical walls. Yes, it is time to upgrade the parking code for new offices! Developers should be required to provide many MORE parking spaces for any new office buildings than the current code requires. The appropriate number of parking spaces could be THIRTY per 1,000 square feet – OR EVEN MORE! This should be fairly obvious to all from the photo linked:
On the New England site, a reasonable project would be a 5,000 sq. ft, two story office/retail building, with small restaurant or retail on the first floor New England side, and a 150 space parking garage on the south side of the building.
So, that’s about one-tenth of what they are asking for on the office building size. Staff had already recommended 156 parking spaces based on the original 52,000 sq. ft. request at 3 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft.
Basically, the proposed number of parking spaces is a fit with a much smaller building. 50,000 sq. ft. is somebody’s development profit fantasy or negotiating tactic for that site. It can handle only about 5,000 sq. ft. office/retail and the rest parking garage. There was a lot more available parking in downtown Winter Park in 1970 when the Barnett Bank was built. Times have changed. Residents prefer less traffic, not more, coming into Winter Park today. And the RESIDENTS, not the developers, will be voting for mayor in 2018.
Any commission that limited the size of that building would have a lawsuit on their hands the size of city’s annual budget. The point of being a commissioner is to use wisdom and discretion, not emotion and dogma, to make decisions.
For the 3rd time…let’s see how comparable Class A space in WP is used. Maybe, just maybe, we’re both wrong. But let’s get the facts.
You guys will cherry pick a 1,000 sq. ft. office suite of a Winter Park Class A building, that is occupied by a business getting ready to move, that is just waiting for its lease to run out. Everyone but 3 employees have already left for the new location. And you will say “See? Told ya. 3 parking spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. is all we need.”
We have eyes to see. 3 or 4 parking spaces worked in the olden days. But not for the kind of rents they are proposing today. You gotta go to downtown Orlando to compare. We’re not in Kansas anymore. Here’s the list of nearby Class A “cubicle hell.”
The planned New England building could be catastrophic to Winter Park. But even worse is the precedent it would set.
If approved, anyone who wants to build a 50,000 sq. ft. office building could do the same thing. If that happens, we’re not talking about adding 50,000 sq. ft. of office space. Try 100,000, 200,000, 500,000 or a million sq. ft., and however many thousands of employees and cars that would mean clogging our streets and our parking spaces!
Grab the smelling salts and inhale. Deeply. The size of a building’s proposed construction is limited to the size of the lot. Always has been true, always will be true. Writing anything else is ignorant fear mongering dogma.
Pitt, have you calculated how many square feet of office space could be built in downtown Winter Park, in total, if buildings were torn down and redeveloped into new office towers?
Would you personally be willing to “put your own parking space where your mouth is” and donate your own downtown Winter Park parking space for the benefit of the office tower developers, so that they can build an out of scale office building and not have to pay for adequate parking for their tenants and office visitors?
Or is it OK if they just swipe some public parking spaces that Winter Park residents depend on as long as it’s not your personal parking space? You don’t have to park in a public parking space. We do.
You talk a lot about dogma. Yours seems to be “Gimme Gimme Gimme.” Gimme more development. Gimme a public parking deck. Gimme fewer restrictions on building. Gimme. Gimme Gimme.”
If, as you say, a building can be not bigger than the lot, you are stating that a building can only be one floor tall. You know that’s not so. How do you expect to win any public support for your aggressive development ambitions if you deceive the residents?
Once upon a time, a city named Orlando approved big Class A office buildings. The developers promised that the workers would have offices, and the parking would be adequate.
Then the landlords and the businesses figured out that if they could fit more workers into their big Class A buildings, the landlords could charge more rent for both office and parking space. And the businesses could make more money too by consolidating remote offices and workers into just one Class A building.
The businesses wanted garage space for their customers. So the big shots got to have parking spaces for themselves. But they told a lot of their many cubicle workers to find somewhere else to park. So, the workers looked for free parking nearby.
Good fortune! The Class A cubicle workers found parking spaces. Lots of spaces. All free! On city streets. But then there was no place for the customers who visited downtown retail and restaurants to park.
This is how the parking meter began in downtown Orlando. And make no mistake. If the New England building is approved, parking meters will be coming to downtown Winter Park too. Try to find a parking space you don’t have to pay for in downtown Orlando. You won’t. That’s because big Class A office means everybody has to pay to park – anywhere within a mile or two.
Too many office workers for too few parking spaces equals metered parking on the streets and city lots – everywhere. It’s a law of physics. As sure as the sun rises in the morning. You can count on it. But that’s what Winter Park residents pay real estate taxes for. So we can make developers rich and so we will be forced to reach in our purses for some spare quarters to “feed the meter” just to enjoy an hour or two of lunch and shopping on Park Avenue, so we don’t get a “ticket” from the “City.”
No Cherry Picking-a 3rd party paid consultant will get the facts. Get a professional to handle it. No amateurs.
I have analyzed the New England building request, and have received no compensation for this report. Neither I nor any member of my family has any financial interest in any real estate or development-related enterprise doing business in Winter Park. This is quite likely the only truly independent report Winter Park will ever see on the project.
1) It would take 3,300 additional parking spaces to support the proposed 50,000 sq. ft. building. This is because of the trend in Class A office space to bringing in more office workers. Over the years, the office worker has been cramped into incrementally less personal space. They have moved from offices to large cubicles, to small cubicles, and now to attached desks. The next progression will be to install coach airline seating throughout the office buildings, where the workers will sit three abreast, with isles between, then flip down the tray table on the seat back in front of them to place their laptop computer. When they have to get up to use the facilities, they will request their seat mates to please move out of the way for them.
2) This will mean thousands of workers milling in and out of the proposed building like some kind of giant ant farm. And because the only reason someone would locate their business in a Class A building in downtown Winter Park is due to proximity to entertainment, the building will attract businesses who will take their clients to lunch and dinner on Park Avenue every day. This will force the restaurants to expand out from the sidewalk into existing on street parking spaces, making these spaces unavailable to the public. The Park Avenue dining experience will then be much like that on east Morse, where diners can enjoy the smell of diesel fumes with their cabernet as cars and trucks whiz by them within inches, making it a truly exciting experience. “Class A” clients will be eager to sign on the dotted line just so they can get out of there.
3) In addition to developers providing the 3,300 free parking spaces, it is also recommended that approval be subject to compensating Winter Park residents for the inconvenience of the extra time they will have to wait in traffic and in line at local restaurants as a result of the rush hour traffic crunch the thousands of new office workers will make even worse. The average Winter Park resident is an executive or professional earning $200 per hour. The proposed building would likely force an extra hour per working day of drive time for the average resident (1/2 hour each way). There being 240 working days in the year, that’s 240 hours per resident, per year, related to the proposed development. Additional time spent waiting in restaurants, for hair appointments, etc. would be an additional 60 hours per year, per resident. That’s 300 hours of time per year, per resident, times $200 per hour, or $60,000 per resident, times 30,000 residents, or $1,800,000,000 per year in recommended compensation from the developer to the residents for the time they will have to put in as a result of the proposed development.***
***Note: Because economically this is not feasible, the development community provides multiple $1,000 campaign contributions to each of three Winter Park City Commissioners. There is an election for mayor in 2018. And the City Charter provides for a recall (removal from office) election for any sitting City Commissioner upon a petition by a small percentage of registered voters within the City. Given that residents have already demonstrated ability to successfully complete a petition drive with verified signatures and deliver it to the City, if this development is approved, it is quite likely to be the last development of any kind to be approved by a City Commission in Winter Park for quite some time. Perhaps the development community in Winter Park should consider this before moving forward, given Leary’s razor thin margin of victory last time, and Sprinkel and Weldon’s proclivity to make outrageous and highly unpopular comments in the public record.
Very Truly Yours,
An Open Letter to the Owners of the 158 E. New England Lot.
You can continue to be miserable, fighting a greedy battle with the residents for domination of Winter Park’s skyline. Or you can be happy, following in the tradition of the Morse, Genius and McKean philanthropic families of Winter Park and lease your lot to the City for $1 a year for green space that would bring joy to residents and visitors alike for years to come.
The recent bowling alley redevelopment request highlighted the ongoing need in Winter Park for low cost family recreation. Your lot is the ideal size for a Putt Putt Golf Course, like ones found in historic downtown areas such as St. Augustine, Florida. There is currently no pubic green space in downtown Winter Park east of Park Ave. until you get almost to Webster. Converting your lot to a Putt Putt Golf Course would fill Winter Park’s badly needed green space gap in that section of downtown as well as the need for low cost, fun, family recreation.
If you leased the lot to the City on a 100 year lease with the stipulation that it be used only for a Putt Putt Golf Course during that time, you and/or your heirs would still own the property. And if you decided at the end of the lease that you wanted to develop it into an office building you could bring your request to the City Commission at that time. Or it could even be offered to the City for sale as was the case of the Winter Park Golf Course after the end of its long term lease with the City.
It’s your choice what legacy you want to leave. Do you want to be remembered as one who took, and took, and took from the residents, squeezing every last drop of juice out of the orange, and every square inch of net rentable space you could get approved, and never giving back? Or would your family like to join the short list of Winter Park’s most revered and respected benefactors of public green space. Your New England Ave. lot having the same standing in Winter Park’s history and public appreciation as Central Park and The Winter Park Golf Course.
Morse. Genius. McKean. B…
The choice is yours.
And lest you think you would be “giving away the farm,” consider that the Morse Genius Foundation when it sold the Winter Park Golf Course to the City, realized a price beyond the wildest dreams that the original owners ever could have imagined at the time they leased it to the City. Such is the benefit of long term thinking for generations to come. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Is Winter Park ready for potentially 1,000 or more additional cars sitting all day long in the downtown and surrounding area from 8 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday? Do the math.
A 50,000 sq. ft. office building could house 1,500 or more office workers. But let’s say the number is only 1,000. In real life, that means 1,000 ADDITIONAL cars – every day of the working week – that have to be parked somewhere nearby.
In a pretend world, all, most, or some of these workers would walk, ride their bike, carpool, or take SunRail. But we don’t live in a pretend world. We live in a real world.
Where are these 1,000 new office workers going to park their 1,000 cars? And if the answer is not onsite, why should Winter Park residents have to subsidize this development with a taxpayer funded parking garage or with the intrusion of these cars into traditionally retail/restaurant public parking spaces and residential neighborhoods?
Pitt, I am glad you find The Voice a worthwhile venue to post your opinions. The article about the
“Parking Problems” in WP has brought out many comments. There have (so far) been 27
comments and you have contributed 7 of them. I hope you will not just “use” The Voice
but that you will feel you should financially support it.
Please contribute today
Sally, My comments are meant to steer the conversation towards civil, rational, logical, transparent discussions about parking. I have complained to the City Commission for 15 years about this issue. You allow anonymous uncivil, mostly uninformed comments that without rebuttal, may become more of the dogma floating in WP. If you required people to post their name I would contribute. Until then, nope.
I am quite amused reading Pitt’s comments here in The Voice. They encapsulate the “massive development at any cost” dogma of a narrow minded group of Winter Park real estate profiteers. This small faction has managed to wrestle control of the City Commission from the residents, at least temporarily. For that reason alone, the more insight we can gather about this tunnel vision group and the way they think, the better it will be for Winter Park’s ultimate victory over them.
Without Pitt’s comments, most readers of The Voice would never know what a rude, thoughtless, self serving, misleading, vilifying, and generally obnoxious group currently rules us. The glossy brochures from the city in our mailboxes, make it look like the Easter Bunny himself is in charge of Winter Park – always good, always generous, always kind, always looking out for the best interests of the residents with our tax dollars.
For this reason, today I am coining the term “Pittworthy” to describe any comment by a “massive development at any cost” activist, politician or otherwise, that in a transparent way, and without the filter of a public relations specialist, shows what’s really at the heart of this group.
1) When Mayor Leary said he wanted to build a new library like the Orlando Performing Arts Center, his comment was truly “Pittworthy” because the Performing Arts Center boondoggle cost taxpayers over $500 million.
2) When the developer said he would need only 133 parking spaces for the 52,000 ft. Class A office building (i.e. this assumption equivalent to implying that a 20 ft. by 20 ft. office would be provided for every salesman, bean counter, new hire, secretary, errand boy, and janitor, who would ever work there), his comment was “Pittworthy.”
3) The way that Commissioner Weldon nitpicked in his letter to the Voice was “Pittworthy” like when Pitt writes real estate advertising listings without including the owners names, but demands The Voice publish names of its commenters.
Is there any way that The Voice could possibly offer Pitt a small stipend to ensure that he continues to write comments here between now and next year’s mayor’s election (but only if he uses his real name)? It could be just the secret sauce we’ve been looking for to send Leary back home to New York in 2018 with his tail between his legs!
Pitt, FYI I have nothing to do with who comments and whether people sign
their names. As you can see, I always sign my name to anything
I write. You did not confirm that you should do your part to support
THE VOICE financially — even though you use it more than anyone! I guess that would be asking a lot.
My first comment on this thread was “Taxpayers should not be building parking for new construction. In my opinion, more parking is needed for current level of Park Ave.”.
We all want WP to remain charming, small-scale and unique. I think we have a current parking deficit, but I suggest a study. I may be wrong, as I stated before. But let’s have a professional look it over.
Every building in “downtown WP” is built on a 50′ lot. Some are 100″. To assemble a lot large enough to build a building is financially and logically impossible. A building sold on N. Park AVe recently. $4+ million for 50″ wide lot and a 2 story building. You can’t put a 3rd story on it. 50″ wide. Individual owners. $4 mill for 7,000 sf of dirt. Please quit spreading dogma. You’re covered in it but keep it to yourself.
Oh yeah? Tell me First Congregational Church is built on a 100 ft. lot. Or the Womens Club, or All Saints, or the Library, or any number of other properties in downtown Winter Park. Fact. In downtown Orlando today, many if not most of the high rises you see were built on land previously used as churches. People fan that kind of money under a pastor’s nose and anything can happen. So answer the question. How many square feet of office space could be created in downtown Winter Park if developers started buying up property and tearing down to build office towers? How many square feet?
And since you didn’t answer that question, here’s another. Have you ever earned a commission for selling or leasing property on behalf of the applicant, or do you want to?
You guys better stop piling on Pitt, or, as he’s always warning us, expensive litigation may be the result! LOL*
*full disclosure: this comment is probably not “Pittworthy,” but is probably based on “dogma,” according to PW. 😉