Six Nonprofits Have Plans for Winter Park’s Old Library

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The development of two city-owned properties will be discussed at the Wednesday, May 10, commission meeting when scopes of work are presented for the old library, located at 460 E. New England Ave., and the parking lot behind Seven Oaks Park, located by the intersection of Orange Avenue and Denning Drive.

The Seven Oaks property has been discussed as a possible option for a new Winter Park Playhouse building, but commissioners agreed that additional uses needed to be weighed with the caveat that any development plan should serve the community as an arts, local history, or cultural venue. The entire scope of work is available here.

The repurposing of the old library building has been the subject of ongoing debates stemming from strict redevelopment rules that prohibited potential developers from demolishing the structure, and limited the range of potential tenants. The city recently agreed to relax some of the restrictions, and accepts the possibility of replacing the 33,000-square-foot building with new construction. A list of favorable design elements, outlined in its scope of work (available here), includes:

  • The preservation of the oak tree on the east side of the building
  • Space for arts, culture, and non-profit tenants
  • No expansion of existing on-site parking capabilities

Commissioners previously stated that preference would be given to local nonprofits wanting to partner with the city to repurpose the building, replace it with a new facility, or develop a space that fits within a multi-tenant plan. Nonprofits were offered a submission period – between April 18 and 28 – for letters of interest that detailed a proposed use of space, fundraising capabilities, and square footage needs. The following organizations responded:

Central Florida Vocal Arts: The performing arts nonprofit, based in Winter Park, proposes a co-op space serving all of Winter Park’s arts organizations. The concept features a training conservatory for performing and visual arts education, and would fill the entire building with teaching, administration, and rehearsal facilities, but not a performance venue. Central Florida Vocal Arts, with the help of participating nonprofits, will raise the money to retrofit the building for the proposed uses, but asks the city to fund renovations necessary to bring the 44-year-old building up to code.

SkyBuilders 4 All: Founded in 2020, the nonprofit assists in the production and preservation of building infrastructure related to the affordable housing, health, and education needs of local communities. The proposal is for the use of a 1,000 -square-foot space for administration, project planning and meetings. Company ties to the construction industry allow for the necessary partnerships to build out its own space inside the existing building, or within new construction.

SOAR (Saving Our Aeronautical Resources) Museum: The burgeoning organization, currently in the early stages for forming a 501(c)(3), proposes the existing building be repurposed into an aeronautics and space museum with a planetarium, space camp, and exhibits that include a launch pad. The paperwork states that the company has verbal commitments from NASA, Boeing, and the U.S. Air Force, to help fund the creation of the museum, estimated at $10,500,000.

Winter Park History Museum: The long-standing local nonprofit, presently operating in a 900-square-foot space, requests 5,000 square feet to build a 4,000-square-foot exhibit space with the rest dedicated to on-site archives and administration. The museum also states that it has anticipated a capitol campaign for a new location, and has funds available for the build.

Winter Park Playhouse: The 21-year-old performing arts organization has discussed multiple proposals for a new location since announcing the loss of its current lease. Its letter outlines an interest in partnering with the city on a new theater building at the former library site. A total of 12,000-15,000 square feet of space is required with 5,000 square feet devoted to the theater, which requires a ceiling height of 20-25 feet. The playhouse has previously stated its capability to pay for the entire cost of building and maintaining a new facility.

Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival: Currently operating in a 800-square-foot leased space, the nonprofit requests the same amount for operational needs, business functions, and archives storage that includes the festival poster collection. It also proposes a partnership with other nonprofits in the creation of a 1,500-square-foot shared meeting space, and offers the opportunity for a yet-to-be-determined art gallery for the storage and exhibition of the city’s Best of Show Collection, comprised of the winners of past festivals.

Copies of each letter of interest can be found here.

Developers will have a chance to submit their own proposals for the library property, and for the Seven Oaks Park property, during a 3-4 month solicitation period that will begin when scopes of work for both projects are approved. A review of all proposals will begin at the end of the solicitation period.

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