WP Public Library ‑ The Future Is Now
Stephen G. Pategas, Guest ColumnistEditor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
While there is a well-established need, either for a new library building or a major renovation to the current building, the process that got us to this point was flawed and has created confusion and uncertainty. But, that is water under the bridge. It is no longer about process. It’s about what our community needs.
WP Library Ranking Plunges
Winter Park residents have only limited access to the Orange County Library system. Years ago, we decided to go it alone. We have built a proud tradition of an independent not-for-profit library that is partially supported by the city. From 2001 to 2006, our library was the highest ranked in Florida. But that was a decade ago. Now, newer Florida libraries have passed us by.
Initially I was concerned about the selection of Martin Luther King, Jr., Park for a new library. I thought, “Too far out of downtown,” and “Park land should not be built upon.” I did some research and visited a new state-of-the-art library in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Eye-Opening Trip to Iowa
With a population of 126,000, Cedar Rapids’ library is larger than we need, but it boasts the amenities we need on a smaller scale. The Cedar Rapids Library opened my eyes to what a library can be and how the space can be arranged to fill many needs and inspire minds of all ages. I realized our current library could never provide the opportunity to create a facility of this caliber. Renovation dollars thrown at it would just be ‘good money after bad.’
Most Oft-Used Public Facility
The Winter Park library is our most visited public building, receiving about 600 visitors a day. Although it is close to Park Avenue, many visitors still drive there, and frequently they have trouble finding parking. If you do walk, it is nine minutes from the SunRail Station. The MLK Park location would only add an additional four minutes. Buses are available to both locations.
Needs More Than Cosmetic Surgery
Our current building is a dysfunctional embarrassment. When the third floor was tacked on 20 years ago, the design for the stairs was compromised. The elevator cannot hold a gurney so, in an emergency, a patient would have to be hand-carried down steep stairs. The building needs rewiring, and the cramped bathrooms do not meet current code. The history collection is not protected with climate control and is not fully accessible. Too many still-current books must be cycled out, youth activities are restricted and meeting space is limited.
Meanwhile, the Cedar Rapid’s library has numerous spaces that attract widely diverse groups, and the roof top garden is a revenue- generating event venue overlooking a park. Their children’s area is almost the size of our whole first floor. Their café is a popular gathering place.
Go-To Place for Technology
A fair number of Winter Park residents do not have internet access, so our library is the go-to place for job hunting, research and staying in touch with grandchildren. A new facility might include visualization and incubator labs where students, artists and startup businesses could access evolving technology such as 3D printers. Can you think of any place other than a library that would offer free or low cost public access to this kind of technology?
Revitalize MLK Park
The new building in MLK Park will use only an additional one-quarter acre of park space. That equals a parcel 100′ X 108′, which is smaller than most home lots in Winter Park. The area not used for playing fields and playgrounds is underused. Locating a combined library-civic center there would attract many people to these under-utilized areas. Meanwhile, the lake edge setting is dramatic, engaging and ripe with outdoor educational opportunities. A library in that location would better serve the West Side community, which used to have a branch library in the old community center.
‘Downtown’ Has Grown Beyond Park Ave.
Our downtown used to be only Park Avenue, but now it has expanded to include Hannibal Square and even Winter Park Village. Downtown is expanding as our city continues to evolve. The Civic Center, which is already on park land, is undersized, outdated and ready for a major rehab. Save those renovation dollars and use them for a combined, more efficient structure.
Our choice is clear.
Renovate two structures, and still fall short of our needs? Or, build one well-designed, architecturally significant facility designed for the future, with a parking deck softened by vegetation that would screen park and library users from the new commercial development along 17/92?
We should be thinking, not of the kind of library we have used for generations, but of the kind of library today’s youth will be using 10 or 20 years from now. Vote for a library that young people can use now and into the future.
Thank you, Stephen. Your Cedar Rapids example is perfect! That’s what we want and need for the 2ist century. Winter Park deserves nothing less.
The library does not belong on the West side of Winter Park, it belongs in the downtown
core. And it can be achieved easily along with a new City Hall that we
so desperately need as well.
Move the library to temporary quarters ( i.e. in the office building
on the NE corner of Denning and Morse. Tear down the existing library and
build a new City Hall. Then tear down the existing City Hall and build
the new library with an entry, reading, and sculpture court facing Park Avenue!!!
With proper design and construction staging this can be done as one
continuous project accomplished in 24 months (design of both projects,
library move, library demo, new city hall construction, demo city hall,
new library construction, relocate library back to its new facility.
It would be in walking distance of the majority of Winter Park.
Leonard Feinberg, Architect
It’s time to correctly increase the parking structure to 400 spaces to accommodate the private businesses that will bottle-neck the lot.
Add 100 more spaces for the parking because of all the non-Winter Park folks using out library.
Add another 150 spaces for the Friday wedding during a baseball game during the Art festival.
Of course we can shuttle folks from the new Whole Foods parkway …..
And for size of library; which of our local public or private schools don’t have an adequate library? Maybe you mean one of our local colleges!? One that is the largest college in the United States.
And your right that all the meeting spaces that are city owned are booked solid; maybe you should ask the private sector to start a business.
Improve the existing structure.
Don’t waste the city money.
As of 2013 the population of Cedar Rapids is 128,429………..100,000 more than Winter Park, Fl.
I wish everyone who hasn’t voted yet would google…. Winter Park Community Center…. and get views and information about the building built in 2011 for $12,000,000 on over 4 acres. Actually it would be better if you would see the inside for yourself. It’s on the corners of Pennsylvania, New England and Capen.
The square footage of the building is approximately 38,000 sq ft which has a LIBRARY with computers, tutor areas for students, areas for Senior Citizen activities, commercial kitchen, 2 indoor basketball courts, open pool, 99 parking spaces, patio areas just 1 block from proposed new library saying we need areas for children’s activities!!.
You can get on property tax web site….ocpafl.org………….. 250 Capen address for location to get information………………just saying.
very nicely said Stephen. I could not agree more. I hope everyone can see this vision for Winter Park.
Don’t believe the hype. This article with comments like “throwing good money after bad” and “our current building is a dysfunctional embarrassment” seems unattached from reality. These comments also give no credit or respect to the citizens and City Government that developed our current facilities. How could we ever plan for the future generation as this article states if the buildings our predecessors’ developed were so incompetent as to barely last a single generation.
The Cedar Rapids $46 million dollar Library was built with “Not a penny of debt thanks to federal and state disaster dollars…” (after the 2008 flood). A far cry from a 20 year $30,000,000 bond on residence. Cedar Rapids is now trying to figure out how to fund operating costs on their new facility they are considering more taxes.
Another misleading flaw in this write up is the LEED (US Green Council) logo located at the end of the article. There is nothing green about tearing down the Civic Center (built in 1986) a relatively young and very well built structure. All buildings need updating and maintenance. You wouldn’t tear down your home because you need air conditioning improvements or better access. Improvements are achievable in the current building locations and for much less than $30,000,000 dollars. The library 3rd floor was added in 1994 for 1.5 million.
Cedar Rapids situation arose from a horrible flood and had to totally rebuild. Still don’t understand why WP library couldn’t be temporarily housed elsewhere while existing site is rebuilt, keeping library where it is. It worked for Cedar Rapids, Seems a whole lot cheaper too.
However, Cedar Rapids demographics are out of scale with WP so not apples to apples comparison for civic needs. We have new community center that fits a lot of the description but is being ignored, why? Because of its location some see it as west sides residents only? Maybe we need to better educate residents and market the community center.
Spending $41 MILLION on this project is not reasonable. Most households in Winter Park have access to the Internet where the most current technology is available. Re-organization of the current space is a more logical use of our funds.
What a wonderful article! I had not thought about some of the points you made. I do recognize your name as a community leader and I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.
I can imagine a beautiful new facility which will bring even more education and culture to the future of our city. A city that cares about educating its population and providing them with learning opportunities for all ages is truly a great city. I hope very much that Winter Park makes the right choice for our next generation and votes to fund this worthwhile project.
According to ClimateData.com, Cedar Rapids, Iowa averages 21 inches of snow per year, whereas Winter Park averages 0.
Metropolitan Orlando (including Winter Park) is one of the largest travel markets in the nation. When was the last time you planned a vacation to Cedar Rapids? In other words, the library is just about the only thing to do in Cedar Rapids. Not so with Winter Park where there is a dizzying plethora of destinations for residents to choose from.
The boondoggle that would be the proposed new Winter Park Library, is large enough to hold every man, woman and child in Winter Park – at the same time. Yet, most people in town will never step through its doors.
Much like folks are scratching their heads wondering why people haven’t abandoned their cars to ride SunRail like they ride commuter rail in places like New York or Chicago, and never bothered to notice that half the year here is scorching humid temperatures pushing 100 degrees and daily torrential rains completely incompatible with pedestrian oriented commuter rail, the “Cedar Rapids is Winter Park” group should re-think their assumptions before wandering off to the voting booth on Tuesday to vote for their latest White Elephant.
From the author:
I appreciate that you have read what I wrote about my thoughts on the proposal to build a new library. I have read every reply (curiosity killed the cat?). I knew that not everyone would agree with my thoughts, but felt everyone would welcome hearing a variety of opinions as I do.
Whatever the result of the vote on the referendum on this Tuesday, I strongly encourage you to stay involved. Please continue to share your opinions if you feel Winter Park should continue to have a library.
If the referendum is defeated, then some hard decisions will need to be made as to how to renovate the existing site to make it functional. Any ideas? If that proves infeasible (even a 3D printer cannot create more space), then a new site will need to be found. Any ideas?
If the referendum passes, please share what you think a new library for your children, grandchildren and great-children should encompass. The library started on Mrs. Lamson’s front porch and I suspect she knew it would continue to grow to meet the needs of future generations.
P.S. – I discovered it is MUCH easier to write a reply in a decent word processing program and then paste it in here.
No matter how much we need a new facility, what we don’t need is a 30 million dollar facility. The price is not only outrageous but will be making some one richer. Way over priced for a source of technology that is fading fast. What we do need are 50 computers linked to the resources that the library has. Nothing like that costs 30 million. Oh by the way did I mention the cost of the debt interest payments. I’m curious to know how much the debt will add to the total cost. Could it be another 15 million? If that is even close, that hangs the total cost to 45 million. Who benefits most by this new construction? Certainly not me or my neighbors.
So the one question no one is asking ?? If the new library gets built what happens to the current building and plot of land?? Might there be a developer in the wings working the political system to demolish the current library and build another high density residential structure?? Hmmm who benefits from that. Hard to believe something like this isn’t in the works with all the big push to move it out of downtown… JH