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Rollins College Pulls Plan for Workforce Housing Project

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Rollins College has officially discontinued its plan for a faculty and staff apartment building near Hannibal Square.

Jo Marie Hebeler, Rollins College associate director of external relations, told the32789 that the decision was made after College leadership spent the past several weeks seeking input from members of City Commission regarding necessary accommodations while trying to preserve the integrity of the project. The three-story apartment building, which was to be built on lots along W. New England, W. Welbourne, and S. Virginia avenues, was on today’s City Commission meeting agenda and has been voluntarily and indefinitely pulled from consideration. The College stated the following in an email to the32789:

“This project remains a strategic priority of the College. We will take time to explore our options and come back with a project that benefits the College and the City’s Central Business District.”

The first public discussion of the 80,981-square-foot, 48-unit apartment building occurred during the Jan. 17 Planning and Zoning Board meeting. Residents of the neighboring Douglas Grand condominium building voiced concerns over density, parking, and architectural continuity, but the proposal cleared with a 4-2 vote to recommend to City Commission with conditions for a community benefit agreement and a parking management plan. Despite a 20% reduction in building size and additional parking accommodations, commissioners tabled a vote on the proposal at their Jan. 24 City Commission meeting, citing conflicts with the city codes.

The redesigned site plan (below) shows the reduction in building size and additional parking spaces. Commercial space, shown at the bottom right section of the original site plan (above), was to remain part of the new building design but was less than the required square-footage. Images courtesy of: City of Winter Park

Mayor Phil Anderson admitted that size and density adjustments eased his own concerns over the compatibility of the building’s frame construction with neighboring architecture. However, he stated a desire to pursue the look of a more “naturally occurring urban block” and remained unsure about allowing a height variance for a three-story section along the project’s Welbourne Avenue side.

Concessions did not include lowering the three-story height, which went beyond the 2.5-story limit along Welbourne Avenue. Image courtesy of: City of Winter Park

Commissioners were also hesitant to adjust a Comprehensive Plan policy mandating the inclusion of street-level commercial businesses in new development along New England Avenue. The measure was meant to create a retail connection between Park Avenue and Hannibal Square, and calls for the entire first level fronting New England Avenue to offer commercial space. The Rollins apartment plan only included a 1,000 square-foot coffee shop and bookstore in order to provide adequate living and amenity space, and to reduce parking requirements.

The Rollins College email statement also noted that, “We remain committed to ongoing dialogue with commissioners as we continue to refine the proposal. We are grateful to the many Winter Park residents and community members who have shown support for this initiative aimed at addressing the college’s workforce housing needs.”

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