A Look Through Winter Park’s Latest Library RFP

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The new draft of a request for proposal (RFP) for the reuse of Winter Park’s former library is ready for review at the next City Commission meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, June 28. The draft includes several parameters from the first RFP, issued last year, but allows options that the city once viewed as dealbreakers.

The property, located at 460 E. New England Ave., has been the focus of discussion and debate since a 2019 task force began the process of determining the best potential uses for the land and the building.

The first RFP ensured the preservation of the building, retained city ownership of the property, and decreased potential traffic and parking issues by excluding high impact tenants. Preference was given to coworking spaces and small office use, but the number of restrictions, and a limited solicitation period of 45 days, resulted in only one response which commissioners voted to reject.

Months of discussions and public comments during city meetings resulted in agreements for new parameters that would expand the potential for reuse. Commissioners also agreed to increase in the solicitation period to approximately four months.

The first RFP for the reuse of the old library property excluded demolishing the 45-year-old building, and did not allow any residential components. The new draft allows for both options, but offers incentives for preserving the building.

While City Commission is unanimously in favor of retaining property ownership and decreasing potential impacts on nearby residents, opinions have differed on keeping the 45-year-old building intact. Mayor Phil Anderson has expressed his approval for razing the structure and land banking the property, while Commissioner Todd Weaver has spoken against demolition, citing the value of having an existing structure and the environmental impact of landfilling non-recyclable materials.

In a nod to the first RFP, the new draft states that interested parties would enter a long-term lease for the city-owned property, and that the city will not contribute funds for renovations or rebuilds.

Restaurants and food halls are excluded from consideration for the amount of traffic and parking needs they create, but commissioners and residents have expressed a preference for arts and nonprofit uses. Six nonprofit organizations, including Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and Winter Park Playhouse, have already expressed interest in using the property.

The Project Details sub-section includes a statement that the city is “seeking proposals to reuse the land in a compatible manner with the surrounding neighborhood,” and that consideration for nearby residents must be factored into any proposal. Project Details also indicates that the city would consider proposals to repurpose the building, but the Scope of Work sub-section relaxes the former mandate against demolition by stating that proposals “could include reusing or demolishing the building and/or constructing something new.”

However, the RFP also includes Project Design Guidelines that give preference to proposals that reuse the existing building. The list of preferences also includes C-3 zoning that excludes restaurants and food halls, no residential units on the first floor, arts and nonprofit use, and preservation of the oak tree on the east side of the property.

While coffee shops and snack bars are acceptable add-ons, larger food service options have been denied by City Commission for the increased traffic and parking that accompanies restaurants and multi-tenant concepts like East End Market. Residential use was also prohibited in the first RFP, but the idea of incorporating workforce housing for first responders or Rollins College staff opened the door for consideration.

Proposals will be evaluated with a point system consisting of five categories, each representing a percentage of the total score:

  • Project concept and vision – 60%
  • Financial considerations (lease payments) – 15%
  • Preservation of the existing building – 10%
  • Community support (arts and cultural use) – 10%
  • Local business use – 5%

The deadline for submissions is listed as November 30; however, the timeline – and the other aspects of the RFP – can be altered during Wednesday’s meeting and/or future meetings. The complete first draft is available here.

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