Winter Park's Library Should Stay in Our Downtown
Editor’s Note: Bob and Jill Bendick have lived in Winter Park for almost 20 years. Jill is a retired software engineer. Bob has a background in urban, regional and environmental planning.
We have lived in Winter Park for almost 20 years and have long been users and supporters of the Winter Park Library. Jill has spent many Sundays volunteering at the library bookstore.
Good Case for Library Expansion
Through hard work and research the Library Task Force has made a good case for expansion of the library building to serve the people of Winter Park in the 21st Century, but we object to the relocation of the library to either of the two sites in and adjacent to Martin Luther King Park. A new or expanded library should continue to be located in Winter Park’s downtown area.
Base Final Site Decision on Visioning Process
In May we wrote to the City Commission to suggest that a decision on the expansion and potential relocation of the library should await completion of the Winter Park visioning process now underway. Our reasoning was that a new library, as the largest foreseeable investment by the city in a cultural and educational facility, should reflect and reinforce our collective vision for the city’s future.
We suggested that it is reasonable to wait a few months until the completion of the visioning process before making the library siting decision. It is now clear that the Commission is moving forward with the library project without with the benefit of advice from the Visioning Steering Committee.
Should We Jump Ahead of Visioning?
From our perspective this then requires that we jump ahead of the visioning effort to imagine what it might recommend. We certainly cannot predict the whole picture, but one would hope and expect that the Visioning Steering Committee and, ultimately, the City Commission will conclude that the attribute that makes Winter Park so unique in Florida is its graceful, busy, pedestrian and transit-friendly downtown. Maintaining the sense of place and the spirit of community of the downtown area should be a pillar of the City’s vision for its future.
Downtown Character Depends on Community Investment
It is an illusion to believe that the economic and social vitality of this special area will take care of itself without continuing attention from the City government. Florida is littered with downtowns that have, sadly, succumbed to competition from sprawling, automobile-centered commercial development nearby. Winter Park’s downtown will only retain its character and function as the heart of our community by continuing investment by the City in community events, services, public transportation, and public facilities concentrated in that area.
Environmental Quality Makes WP Sustainable
This brings us to the library which is now proposed to be located between what some city officials call the 17-92 and Denning Avenue “corridors”. While this area deserves redevelopment, it is a pedestrian unfriendly, traffic-clogged, and architecturally generic competitor to Winter Park’s historic downtown. A decision by the City to move its most important cultural institution from its downtown to this area can only be interpreted as a decision by the City of Winter Park to move away from what makes this a unique community and toward exactly the kind of development patterns that have damaged so much of Florida. And the fact that the proposed library location takes away precious green space would convey an additional message about the city’s future — that the quality of the environment that makes the city sustainable is unimportant.
Collective Vision of WP in the 21st Century
As we said in our May letter to the City Commission, a decision of this importance should not be made simply from the internal perspective of the library and its advocates, but should take into account the larger framework that is our collective vision for the future of Winter Park in the 21st Century.
Finally, we, and we suspect many others, would likely be supporters of a referendum to pay for a new or expanded library if it were part of a coherent plan to build upon what makes this City such a special place to live. But we will oppose the expenditure of our tax dollars for construction of a library building that undermines the quality and character of life that residents of Winter Park appreciate and enjoy.
Respectfully, I disagree with everything you have presented here. After reading or listening to nearly everything the task force researched, I believe their decisions and thought process is in the best interest for all residents of our community. The visioning process does not appear to include details about a project that the community has already had a year to give their opinion on.
Wonderful letter Bob and Jill. You have said what we feel and just wanted you to know we are with you in your efforts to keep our library in downtown Winter Park. Moreover, we feel the idea of moving and rebuilding a library in the 17-92/Denning corridor is a thoughtless move destined to kill the spirit of our beloved community. We are saddened to think there may be a go ahead regardless of the well being of our community.
And we definitely support a referendum.
To Ms. Chele Hipp, who wrote: “The Task Force turned a blind eye to siting both the Civic Center and the Library on the west side of the park.” This assertion is incorrect. The Task Force gave the west side of MLK Park its full consideration.
As a regular patron of the WP Library (both as a resource for continuing personal development and education as well as a resource for home environment through great movie and music selection, I believe the library should remain structurally where it is as it seems much more centrally located tab the MLK Park area.
I firmly believe that a community that invests in a resource such as its public library should be equally “obtainable” (through policy, environment AND location) to all of its residents.
Moving the library to the proposed location does not serve the community members equally. Though I will make the necessary sacrifice to go to the new location if it indeed follows through, I find it both unnecessary and lacking a legitimate reasoning to move it from its present location.
(A Note: Many of us use public transportation and (such as myself) a bicycle for much of my local transportation.)
I go to the library on a pretty regular basis, and usually by bicycle with my children. I prefer the current location for its close proximity to downtown and the ability to ride my bicycle without too much traffic interference. The current location is on the edge between the residential corridor and the downtown. People can walk to the library or ride bikes and make it a family event without worry about too much traffic. I agree with the editorial comments from the article.
I attended two library task force presentations in addition to the one held in chambers at city hall. The idea of putting the library in MLK park did not appeal to me at first, but the task force made a persuasive case for doing so. For one thing the site would not require a parking garage. The present site as well as the one for city hall would require building a multilevel garage.
In a perfect world I would support a new library at the downtown post office. Maybe the PO distribution site could move to Lee Road and the retail part remain. I don’t think that that option is on the table.
Excellent!!! Compare John Nolen’s 1926 civic center plan (with a library) for Clewiston with the proposal to merge the Winter Park Civic Center and a new library. Civic centers were designed with a “dignity and appropriate beauty,” Nolen wrote, to inspire “ennobling influence” and crystalize civic impulses into “action for the public good.” Here is the link: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/29405235/Civic%20Center%20%26%20Library.docx
We need to expand vertically/horizontally at the present location. Look next door. I believe a visioning will agree with the Bendicks and me to stay out of the park.
As the other “citizen in the Chamber”, and one of our most valuable, thank you for continuing the library conversation in your publication and for promoting its relationship to Visioning. Wider community participation is consistent with the recommendation from Everylibrary.org at the recent Commissioners’ Workshop.
For a small, active community at this transitional period in our history, visioning is especially timely.
I moved to WP as a child in 1962. Went to Park Avenue Elementary, enjoyed the library at it’s former site – across from the WP Women’s Club on Interlachen. So the current library is the “new” library to me. I do understand that change can be tough.
I now am a snowbird – spending part of the year in WP. I’ve been following along in the library story through my mother. Mom was initially skeptical about moving the library – she loves that she can walk there! But after attending many of the meetings/forums regarding the search, she is now a supporter of the move.
I’m wondering if there is a widely agreed-upon definition of what “downtown” is in WP? Is it just the Park Avenue shops and restaurants? Is the current library considered “downtown” Does it include businesses beyond the railroad tracks? Hannibal Square? The businesses on Morse? How about Canton?
I don’t agree that the proposed location is so pedestrian unfriendly. There seem to be plenty of sidewalks. The addition of the library will increase the pedestrian destinations on that important Morse corridor.
According to Google Maps, walking from the corner of Morse and Park Avenue to the current library is approximately 0.4 miles and takes about 8 minutes. Walking from the same corner to the proposed site is approximately 0.6 miles and should take about 12 minutes. Not such a hardship. Mom will still be able to walk if she likes.
It’s not as if the proposal is to move the library to Lee Road next to I-4. It seems to me this has been very carefully considered and should move forward.
Like the idea of a new updated library within walking distance! We have recently moved into the downtown area near the farmers market and we enjoy living on a residential street within walking distance to the post office, the hardware store, shops and restaurants.