City Continues Pursuit of Bank of the Ozarks Land, Amends Guidance for Library Reuse

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Winter Park commissioners are holding out hope to purchase the Bank of the Ozarks property, despite receiving no response on an offer that was made after their June 14 meeting.

The 1.88-acre property, located at 1100 N. Orange Ave., was previously offered by a third party who intended to purchase and swap the land for the former library property, located at 460 E. New England Ave. The city rejected the proposal and made its own $6 million offer for the property, which currently carries a price tag of $7.5 million.

Assistant City Manager Michelle del Valle notified commissioners, at their June 28 meeting, that the 10-day response period on the offer had expired with no word from the owners. Commissioner Marty Sullivan recommended the city offer a purchase option – a contract to keep negotiations open in exchange for monthly payments that would go toward a possible purchase.

“I’m not saying let’s move forward to buy it,” he said. “I’m saying let’s try to lock-in the possibility of purchasing it.”

Under the Bank of the Ozarks plan, the property would be developed into a three-story, 80,000-square-foot commercial building. The city’s plan is to create a contiguous greenspace with neighboring Seven Oaks Park and Mead Botanical Garden. The land would also allow for stormwater retention, and provide easements by the railroad tracks for possible future train stations.

A drawing by Commissioner Marty Sullivan shows the location of the Bank of the Ozarks property in relation to Seven Oaks Park and Mead Botanical Garden. Image courtesy of: City of Winter Park

Commissioners are unwilling to pay the full asking price, but agreed to inquire about the possibility of a purchase option that would not commit the city to a specific price. Commissioner Kris Cruzada reiterated concerns he previously voiced over the added financial burden of a possible purchase.

“It’s going to affect our operational budget,” he said. “And I don’t want to disappoint our residents with the public service and the quality of life that they expect when they pay their property tax.”

Acting on a request from commissioners, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman drafted a letter to Bank of the Ozarks that expresses the city’s interest in a 12-month agreement that would provide the right to exercise an option to acquire the property. Any new developments will be discussed at the next commission meeting.

The June 28 meeting also included discussions on the latest draft of a request for proposal in the reuse of the former library property. Commission approved the draft with three additions:

  • An amendment stating any site plans should allow for restrictions, in the event FDOT determines the need for a nearby roundabout on State Road 426, but that no land entitlements would be affected.
  • A change to the proposal scoring system that decreases the value of concept and vision from 60% to 50%, and raises the value for arts and cultural use from 10% to 20% while adding educational use to that category.
  • A statement that favorable consideration will be given to proposals with strong lease payments that include short terms, or an option that allows the city to buy out the lease after a 10-15 year period.

“My feeling is that we’re going to get proposals that will have initial terms, plus options to extend that will take us out to 40 or 50 years,” said Mayor Phil Anderson, referring to issues the city had with the previous proposal. “My preference would be to have a very short-term lease.”

According to the draft, questions about the RFP should be submitted to the city by Oct. 31, the deadline for submissions is Nov. 30. The complete draft is available here.

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