The Winter Park City Commission on Wednesday gave final approval to a plan by Rollins College to build a new graduate school of business and art museum a short walk from its campus.
After years of planning the two development projects, the college, which recently welcomed its largest freshman class in the school’s 138-year history, is now set to expand its footprint in downtown Winter Park on a 2.3-acre piece of property at the intersection of New England and Lyman Avenues, next to the historic Alfond Inn.
The college-owned property currently holds the four-story Lawrence Center office building and a separate two-story college office building. The latter would be demolished to make room for a new Crummer Graduate School of Business totaling 47,138 square feet and a new Rollins Art Museum totaling 31,791 square feet, according to city agenda materials.
“These are strategically very important to the college,” Rollins College’s president Grant Cornwell told commissioners ahead of the vote. “The Crummer Graduate School of Business is the number one ranked MBA in Florida and it needs a building to fully express its program, and this building will do that.”
He said the college’s current on-campus art museum holds 6,000 pieces of art but due to its size, only 100 to 150 pieces can be displayed at a time.
“We feel a civic obligation, we have a great desire, to lift that collection up and bring it into the center of Winter Park to share with the citizens of Winter Park, all of Central Florida, all the nation, and the world,” Cornwell said. “The collection is that good.”
California-based architecture firm Frederick Fisher and Partners is leading the design of both projects, which are components of Rollins’ Innovation Triangle—a renovation project encompassing more than two city blocks.
The triangle includes the Alfond Inn, a college-owned boutique hotel that’s in the midst of a renovation. The expansion includes the addition of 71 additional guest rooms, a four-story atrium, more meeting space, and an array of new amenities including a wellness spa, a cafe, and a second swimming pool.
According to the college’s website, Innovation Triangle “will integrate new buildings for the Rollins Museum of Art (RMA) and Crummer Graduate School of Business with an expanded Alfond Inn, transforming the connection between our campus and our community, energizing our commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship, and expanding opportunities for future generations” of students.
“Through The Innovation Triangle,” the website adds, “the Rollins Museum of Art will be even more closely aligned to Rollins’ curriculum and culture, Crummer will improve its competitive advantage as Florida’s No. 1 MBA program, and The Alfond Inn will be positioned to fund more scholarships for Rollins’ brightest students.”
Plans to build a new graduate school of business and art museum were jumpstarted by charitable donations.
In May of 2021, the Harvey and Carol Massey Foundation committed $2 million toward the new Crummer Graduate School of Business.
According to a city staff report, the new and larger Crummer Graduate School of Business will feature administration and facility offices, classrooms for teaching and learning, meeting rooms, an auditorium, and ancillary facilities.
“The architectural styling continues the flavor of the college campus with a Mediterranean-influenced image,” the city report reads. “On the street fronts, the Crummer Business School building meets the required 25-foot street setbacks.”
June Nelson has donated $2 million toward the construction of the new three-story Rollins Museum of Art. Nelson served on the art museum’s board of visitors for 22 years and was a former member of the Winter Park Hospital family board when it was founded in 1999 where she helped fundraising efforts for the expansion of AdventHealth’s Winter Park campus.
When she made a donation in November of 2021, she spoke of the museum’s need for more space.
“I know the urgent need for more space to show our vast and diversified permanent collection, now largely in storage,” she said in a news release at the time. “We have the approval from Winter Park, we have the off-campus space, and we have the support of our leadership. Now is the right time to make it happen.”
The new museum’s lobby will be named after June Nelson.
Earlier iterations of both projects have already gone before the city commission. When it was presented in 2020, the college proposed a much larger school of business, totaling 77,189 square feet. The size of the building has been reduced by 37,442 square feet.
The latest proposal for the museum includes the creation of a grassy open space courtyard area similar to the plaza at the Alfond Inn.
Under the current plan, the museum has also been moved closer to New England Boulevard with a 10-foot setback.
“From the staff’s perspective, having the Museum closer to New England Avenue is a positive change,” a city staff report reads. “First it engages the street and pedestrian travel for guests at the Alfond Inn. Guests at the Alfond Inn will be walking past the new Museum which helps to promote the City’s brand as the ‘city of arts and culture’ and will also hopefully engage visitors to visit the museum thereby expanding and promoting increased visitor numbers and programming at the museum.
“Second, it is difficult to conclude that a 10-foot setback is too close to the street when that is the exact same street building setback as the Lawrence Center office building,” the city staff report ahead of the commission meeting reads.
This 2.37-acre block could potentially hold up to a maximum of 154,856 square feet at the 150% floor area ratio, according to the city staff report.
The existing Lawrence Center office building and proposed Rollins Art Museum and Crummer Business School total cumulatively to 127,285 sq. ft. which is a 123% floor area ratio, per the numbers on the applicant’s plan submittals.
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