City Sinks Canal Murals Proposal, Approves New Holiday Decor and a Town Architect

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City Commissioners, during their May 22 meeting, approved a proposal from the Park Avenue District for additional investments to the city’s holiday budget that are meant to increase foot traffic and consumer spending in the downtown area. Park Avenue District Vice President and Design Committee Chair Tracy Brand-Liffey noted the success of expanded holiday investments by cities including Mt. Dora, Winter Haven, and St. Augustine.

Brand-Liffey, who also owns New General Café & Coffee Bar at 155 E New England Ave., said the decorations should reflect the city’s charm with “Hallmark moments to accentuate quaintness,” adding that new additions would feature citrus and magnolia accents and multisensory experiences that could include a carousel and other inspirations taken from European holiday markets.

The new decorations are planned for Park Avenue from the Fairbanks Avenue intersection to Webster Avenue, New England Avenue from the Interlachen Avenue intersection to the Winter Park Community Center, and on Morse Boulevard from the Interlachen Avenue intersection to New York Avenue.

Brand-Liffey also said residents and business owners have been consulted on the project and research into cost, year-over-year storage, and maintenance is currently under way; however, time is running out to place holiday orders and begin planning for the coming season.

The city’s current budgeted holiday investment, totaling approximately $96,000, is a split between the General Fund and CRA funding. The new proposal was for the city to add $100,000 to the existing investment with Park Avenue District matching the added number with funds raised through its merchants’ association and other supporters. Commissioner Marty Sullivan suggested a reversal of the matching investment that would have the city match the District’s fundraising efforts up to $100,000. Funding would come from a split between the CRA and a contingency to the General Fund, currently totaling 450,000. Sullivan also suggested splitting the city’s total contribution between this year’s budget and next year’s budget, which will be available on October 1. The revised proposal for the city’s investment was unanimously approved and a special CRA meeting to approve its additional contribution will be scheduled for June.

Canal murals

The meeting also included a proposal from the Public Art Advisory Board to beautify the underpasses of bridged sections of the Fern and Venetian canals. The Board suggested the commissioning of murals to cover the weathered concrete beneath the bridges to add visual elements that emphasize the surrounding natural beauty.

Last year, City Commission approved a 10% allocation of the annual unassigned increase in the General Fund balance for the acquisition, commissioning, installation, and maintenance of public art projects. The canal murals were the first public art proposal to come before commissioners since the vote; however, a motion to approve was not seconded and the proposal did not go to a vote.

The Fern Canal bridge was among the areas proposed for the mural project, but Commission voted to clean the concrete and retain the canal’s natural appeal. Photo courtesy of: City of Winter Park

Commissioner Craig Russell was in favor, but pointed out the need for regular maintenance and to frequently change murals as weathering occurred. Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Kris Cruzada expressed concern over the conditions beneath the bridges and whether the art would be blemished or damaged. Sullivan also questioned the need for murals in the face of the surrounding natural appeal. “The beauty to me is the natural environment,” he said, and suggested the concrete underpasses be cleaned without decoration.

Vice Mayor Todd Weaver suggested a mural be added to the upcoming improvements to the playground at MLK Park and was told it would be considered as the canals were only part of a list of upcoming public art proposals.

Urban Design Advisor

McCraney Property Company’s office building proposal was one of several projects to underscore the need for consistency in the city’s approach to urban design. Requests were made for the creation of ad-hoc committees to update design guidelines for the Orange Avenue Overlay and the Central Business District; however, City Commission approved moving forward with the appointment of an as-needed advisor to oversee the design consistency of upcoming projects.

“There is a lot of new development and repurposing of buildings that are going to occur on Park Avenue, Hannibal Square, and Orange Avenue,” Mayor Sheila DeCiccio said. “It is important that we maintain the compatibility that makes these areas of Winter Parks so special.”

To that end, former Mayor Phil Anderson submitted a proposal that summarizes the responsibilities of an Urban Design Advisor – or a “Town Architect” – who would assist the Planning & Zoning Department with architectural reviews for design compatibility. “This doesn’t really affect houses in Winter Park,” Anderson said. “What it does affect is those three-to-four times a year when you have something that’s going to change one of your most important corridors like Park Avenue, New England Avenue, or Morse Boulevard.

The meeting agenda included a Town Architect job summary by architect Michael Watkins of Gaithersburg, Maryland, that defined the position as a community “vision keeper” to oversee the development review of a design master plan. The advisor would direct landscape development and review architecture for compatibility with existing design standards.

Commissioners voted to instruct staff to issue a request for quote (RFQ) for the position and will review the guidelines at a future City Commission meeting.

Storyville building approved

After an exterior design revision and unanimous approval from the P&Z board, the plan to build a three-story, 11,280-square-foot building at 111 S. Knowles Ave. received City Commission approval during its first reading at the May 22 meeting.

The three-story building will house the first East Coast location of Storyville Coffee along with offices and a residential unit. Image courtesy of: City of Winter Park

The building, which replaces the recently razed two-story structure that housed The Imperial Winter Park will be the first East Coast location of Seattle-based Storyville Coffee. The plan includes a 104-seat capacity coffee shop concept on the first-floor with second-floor office space and a third-floor residential unit. The 14 parking spaces required by the property’s C2 commercial zoning will be accommodated by the existing 12-space lot with two additional spaces on the street, created by closing a curb cut on the Knowles Avenue side.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for June 12. Information on upcoming City meetings, downloadable agenda packets, and access to live streaming is available at

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