Rollins Proposes Winter Park’s Old Library as New Site for Art Museum

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The future of Winter Park’s former library building is once again under discussion, and Rollins College and Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts have started the conversation.

Mayor Sheila DeCiccio began a May 23 commission work session on the matter with a list of necessary upgrades for the three-story building that includes ADA compliance, plumbing and electrical improvements, and new air conditioning. “Over the years,” she said, “the question I’m always asked is, what are we gonna do with that site?” Rollins College President Grant Cornwell, who will be retiring next year, introduced a proposal led by real estate developer and philanthropist Alan Ginsburg that answers the question with a reversal of the current plan to build a new Rollins Museum of Art across from the Alfond Inn.

The Rollins Museum of Art design took years of planning and is to be part of the Innovation Triangle project by the Alfond Inn. The new plan would scrap the former, but save more than $10 million in construction costs and take less time to open. Image courtesy of: City of Winter Park

In April of last year, commissioners approved the College’s plan for a 31,791-square-foot museum to be built at 200 E. New England Ave. The new facility would allow more space to exhibit its 6,000-piece art collection with a more modern design than the current art museum on campus. Cornwell referred to the 33,000-square-foot library building located at 460 E. New England Ave. as “a stout, viable building,” but admitted that his consideration of the location came at the request of Mayor DeCiccio and that stakeholders were eager to see the plan for a brand new museum come to fruition. He also noted that fundraising for the estimated $30 million project now stands at approximately $18 million and expressed interest in “the prospect that maybe we could see this vision into reality more quickly – for something less than what it would cost us to build the brand-new facility.”

The plan to use the library was brought to the city by Ginsburg, who was helping to raise funds for the new museum and is serving as a pro bono developer for the revised project. He said the new plan was created in partnership with Orlando architect Robert Schaeffer and developer David Lamb, and aimed to fit “all the stuff” of the original plan into a repurposed library facility that already has adequate parking. “In my opinion as a developer, this is one of those times that the stars all line up,” he said, noting that “time is of the essence” to maintain investor interest.

Renderings were presented to commissioners that retain the library building’s exterior with an additional 5,000-square-foot attached gallery space that features the modern design of the first museum plan. Schaffer explained the interior layout of exhibit space on the first and second floors with a third-floor storage area. He also noted the design would include exterior-facing artwork on the Osceola Avenue side and a parking lot entrance and exit on the Lyman Avenue side. Despite adequate parking for museum patrons, Vice Mayor Todd Weaver pointed out the need for additional parking solutions with the library lot currently used for Alfond Inn valet services, which would need to go elsewhere. He also took issue with the Lyman Avenue entry and exit due to problems with the single-traffic pattern.

Among the screen grabs from the Rollins proposal is a rendering showing the added 5,000-square-foot gallery to the left of the library building.
A hand-drawn site plan shows the former library site with the expansion and a new entry/exit point.
A mural would decorate the Osceola Avenue side of the building.
Interior designs feature an expansion of the center of the building.

During the presentation, Cornwell interjected the point that the plan is still in its early stages and that details were not yet final. “This is all conceptual right now,” he said. “Whether you like it or not, don’t let it be for the architecture that you’re seeing because we haven’t even had a chance to discuss it.”

After hearing the Rollins proposal, commissioners heard from Jeff Flowers, Board Chair of Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts, who had addressed them the night before during the City Commission regular meeting. Flowers and Blue Bamboo Executive Director Chris Cortez had asked permission to present a plan to renovate the library into a performing arts center that would replace the facility that Blue Bamboo recently lost due to a rent increase.

Though Flowers was not as prepared as Ginsberg, he presented an idea for a first-floor performance space with a recording studio on the second floor that could serve aspiring and professional musicians along with Rollins College and Full Sail University students. A third-floor music studio would offer lessons in a private space with leftover square footage offered to local nonprofits at no cost.

Commissioner Marty Sullivan expressed concern over the financial strain of the building renovation and upkeep. Flowers explained that the renovations would take place incrementally with the first floor performance space financing second and third floor renovations. He added that Blue Bamboo’s entry fee of $30 per ticket for an estimated 70-100 people proved adequate for the upkeep of its former facility and would continue with the new plan. “We’ve been in operation year after year since 2016,” he said. “We have a track record of success and we will continue that.”

City Manager Randy Knight noted that he had been in touch with the city attorney and confirmed that Commission was “completely flexible as to how we proceed” due to two previous solicitation periods which yielded two renovation proposals that did not pan out. Mayor DeCiccio instructed staff to start discussions with both organizations for the development of formal proposals and suggested adding an item to the next City Commission meeting to formalize the city’s intent to begin the approval process. Weaver said he knew Orlando Opera and another nonprofit entity had expressed interest in presenting proposals; DeCiccio asked him to share the information with staff.

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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