Commissioners Hammer Out Blue Bamboo Lease for Old Library

Share This:

The June 26 Winter Park City Commission meeting included lengthy discussions of the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts lease for the old library building. The conditions of the 20-year agreement were unanimously approved, but not before debate over amendments regarding financial, parking, and security concerns.

The original terms were negotiated by city staff after commissioners voted to allow the arts and culture nonprofit to use the 45-year-old building, at 460 E. New England Ave., as a live music and arts education venue. The agreement includes an annual rate of $132,000 that would increase to $276,000 after two years, and by 2% every five years. The lease also allows the addition of a 160-seat performance venue on the first floor, sets building operating hours between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., and permits subleasing of second and third floor studios and gallery spaces to city-approved nonprofit organizations. But provisions made by Mayor Sheila DeCiccio, meant to guarantee the financial responsibilities of the lessor, led to disagreements on the dais.

Vice Mayor Todd Weaver pointed to a proposed requirement for renovation cost estimates and documentation of Blue Bamboo’s capability to finance construction. “There’s no precedence for checking bank accounts,” he said. “We didn’t do that with the History Museum, Casa Feliz, The Library.”

Mayor DeCiccio said her concerns stemmed from the Blue Bamboo plan to build a live music venue on the first floor with profits going toward the construction of second and third-floor additions. “We’re dealing with a lessor who doesn’t have a proven financial record behind them. If we’re going to take that leap of faith, we need to have some protections.”

“I don’t agree, its none of our business in my opinion,” Weaver said, citing numerous out-clauses that would allow the city to terminate the lease in the event of an inability to pay rent or complete construction in a timely manner. “There’s no risk to the city, here.”

Another amendment requiring two personal guarantors to be jointly liable for all lease obligations drew additional criticism from Commissioner Marty Sullivan, who said he could not find a similar requirement in other city leases.

“Why are we looking so hard at finding ways to terminate the lease,” asked Commission Craig Russell. “Do we want to go back to paying all the bills for an empty building?”

Regarding Blue Bamboo’s financial viability, Commission Kris Cruzada asked, “Who is going to make that determination and what standard are we going to set? If we believe (Blue Bamboo) are not going to perform, there is already a falling out of mutuality.”

“We are supposed to protect the residents of the City of Winter Park,” DeCiccio said. “We’re cutting (Blue Bamboo) a break on the rent. In turn, we should be getting protection for the city.”

During public comments, former mayor Phil Anderson thanked commissioners for their work on the lease, but made the point that, “it’s not uncommon to ask a tenant for proof of funds to do tenant improvements.”

Blue Bamboo Executive Director Chris Cortez later stated his willingness to comply with the city’s requirements and assured commissioners that providing the funding and proof of financial viability would not be a problem. Cortez also commented on commission’s concerns regarding the parking code and a proposed parking plan for the building. “The Building Department is going to determine our capacity,” he said. “I would suggest that you require us only to follow the Building Department’s guidance in this; we would be happy to do so.”

Another amendment requiring the storage of recorded surveillance data and its availability to the city seemed to come in conflict with Blue Bamboo’s practice of recording and broadcasting video of live music performances. The implied consideration of proprietary material as public record raised red flags for Blue Bamboo Board Chair Jeff Flowers. “This lease directs us to treat recordings as public record. Are we the custodian of record for the City of Winter Park?”

City Attorney Dan Langley was directed to work with staff and Blue Bamboo to clarify the wording for the final reading of the lease agreement, scheduled for the July 10 City Commission meeting.

Additional items

Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a proposed penny-per-square-foot increase to the stormwater rate assessment for all properties, citing the need to fund drainage improvements and projects stemming from basin studies which are currently in progress. The fee is listed in the annual property tax bill and is based on impervious property coverage.

An item related FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) was tabled until January of 2025. The voluntary incentive program encourages community flood management in exchange for reduced rates for residents enrolled in the National Flood Insurance (NFI) program. However, commissioners could not reconcile the cost of participation, projected to be 325-375 hours of staff time to verify compliance with CRS goals, with the projected $59 per policy savings for the 333 city residents with NFI. Commissioner Marty Sullivan voted against participation while the rest of commission voted to delay discussions until after the basin studies are complete and after the 2024 hurricane season.

Mayor DeCiccio also noted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of funding for the state’s proposed leaf blower study, on which Sen. Jason Brodeur based his amendment to prevent Florida cities from banning gas-powered leaf blowers. The amendment led Winter Park to place its current ban on the March 2025 ballot – a measure that is not affected by the veto. Residents will still have the opportunity to vote on the ban next year.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 10, at 3:30 p.m. The agenda and virtual access registration will be available at City Hall will be closed on Thursday, July 4.

Share This:

Have a story idea? Send us a note at Follow our stories on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

If you value local journalism, please support our work by joining The Flock for as little as $7 per month.

Our Sponsors

the32789 Weekly

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Want News in Your Inbox?
the32789 Weekly brings all the Winter Park news you missed straight to your inbox. Sign up for updates every Sunday morning.
Want News in Your Inbox?
the32789 Weekly brings all the Winter Park news you missed straight to your inbox. Sign up for updates every Sunday morning.