WP Village to Get Post-COVID Facelift

Regal Cinema Could Light up the Night

by Anne Mooney / April 23, 2022

Winter Park Town Center, Ltd., (“Casto”) owner of Winter Park Village, plans a major facelift for the 25-year-old open-air retail village, one of the first of its kind in the country.  Like other retail and restaurant establishments, Winter Park Village tenants have suffered during the pandemic. All struggled; some failed altogether. But Casto promises brighter days ahead.

Casto to invest $40M+

In a letter to the Winter Park City Commission, Casto’s Brett Hutchens stated, “As we move out of the pandemic, we . . . have made the decision to invest over $40 million in upgrading Winter Park Village. This will include . . . rebranding; updating architecture and facades; enhanced lighting and landscaping; enhanced outdoor spaces . . .; new outdoor furnishings along with exterior and interior enhancements to Regal Cinemas.”

Regal Cinemas enhancements

If the Village is getting the complete Mommy Makeover, Regal Cinemas is asking for the Plastic Fantastic which would, of course, require a Conditional Use approval or two.

Lighted Tower marks the entrance

The first Conditional Use request is construction of a 63-foot-high central architectural tower which requires a variance of eight feet above the permitted 55-foot height. The tower would be located at the main entrance to the cinema. It would be covered on the north, west and south sides by an ornamental grill and illuminated from within. The fourth side would be opaque to prevent casting illumination to the east where there are residential properties.

No flashing lights

Despite some confusion among Commissioners at the April 13 meeting, Casto assured the City that the lights inside the tower are not neon, and they will not flash or change color. Instead, they will provide a steady, constant illumination behind the decorative grill that will cover the lower part of the tower that rises to meet a pointed, opaque roof.  Someone at the meeting likened the lighted tower to a jack-o-lantern.

Exterior animated screens entertain visitors to the Village

The other request for Conditional Use, which promises to bring a little bit of ‘Vegas right here to Winter Park, is for three large digital animated screens on the exterior of the cinema.

The proposed central sign over the entrance is 1,275 square feet and measures in excess of 70 feet in width. It will have lighted, moving images advertising movies being shown at the theater.

The main sign would be flanked by two smaller screens of 141 square feet each – also with moving digital images displayed on them.

P&Z weighs in

As is customary, Casto presented their requests to Planning & Zoning (P&Z) before going before the Commission. Staff brought the requests forward with a recommendation for approval of the 63-foot tower, but did not take a position on the electric signage request, advising that the Commission should be “the recommending body for this specific type of request.”

P&Z voted 7-0 for approval to construct a central architectural tower at a height of 63 feet.

On a 5-2 vote, P&Z voted to approve the installation of three electronic signs, with the following conditions:

    • There must be no offsite advertisements displayed on the electronic screens.
    • The lighting must only be on during theater business hours.
    • The electronic screens should have no sound.
    • Movie trailers only are allowed to be shown on the electronic screens.

Dissenting votes were cast by Michael Spencer and Alex Stringfellow.

Commission votes to Table

While the April 13 Commission meeting featured a lengthy and sometimes wandering discussion, no conclusion was reached. Casto agreed to go back to Regal to see if they would consider reducing the size of the exterior lighted screens. Commissioners seemed inclined to go along with the lighted tower, but as the discussion gradually ran out of steam, the Commissioners voted unanimously to Table the requests to the April 27 Commission meeting.

Be sure to tune in this Wednesday evening.

 

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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