The fate of the 40-year-old library building in downtown Winter Park is inevitable — it will soon be empty.
Plans on what will become of the 33,000-square-foot property at 460 E New England Ave. are up in the air, as the city primes a 23-acre block on the northwest corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Park for its new library and event center called the Winter Park Canopy.
The $40.5 million project, slated to be completed in 2021, will subsequently leave the city-owned building vacant in the next two years.
So to get ahead of the move, the Winter Park’s City Commission approved the formation of the Old Library Site Reuse Task Force in March. Later in April, the five-member committee began adhering to a schedule that meets twice a month to help hash out options on what it should do with the real estate.
At last month’s meeting, wide-spread rumors that Rollins College was interested in the site were shut down when Ed Kania, vice president of business and finance and treasurer at Rollins College, said that the institution has no plans to purchase the property.
Kania added that the school is focusing on the development of the parking garage south of Fairbanks Avenue and its new dorms as well as the Alfond Inn expansion. When asked if Rollins would lease the property, Kania said they do not typically enter into long-term lease agreements.
City Manager Randy Knight reinforced the message, stating there are no preconceived ideas of what the property should be and that it’s beginning with a “blank slate.”
Long-time Winter Park resident and a managing director at Colliers International Central Florida, Matthew McKeever, told GrowthSpotter he shared the inclination that Rollins College would take control of the property.
“You would think they would,” McKeever said. According to him, the site would better serve as a co-working space.
“There aren’t much mini shared office space operators like Regus in the area,” McKeever said. “I think [Winter Park] should do a ground lease."
Only one Regus resides in Winter Park, along Morse Boulevard. The company provides office rental rooms as well as virtual offices and meeting room spaces on a contract basis.
A resident at last month’s meeting suggested the city speak with East End Market founder John Rife about a similar style development at the site.
Task force members said they are seeking suggestions from individuals, organizations, community partners and interested parties for potential uses or partnership suggestions for the property.
According to an appraiser used by the city, the value of the property stands at $8.7 million if the existing building were to be demolished and sold for its highest and best use as luxury condos. If left as-is, then the value would be $3.2 million, according to the appraiser.
The current library sits on 1.75 acres just east of Park Avenue along Lyman and Fairbanks avenues.
The expansion of Rollins College’s Alfond Inn in Winter Park is underway to its west. The hotel will be adding 73 rooms in addition to a wellness center, 2,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa and a second swimming pool.
The expansion is slated to be complete by the first quarter of 2021.
Andrew Slowik, an associate with Cushman & Wakefield’s Orlando Land Brokerage team, told GrowthSpotter “it’s rare to find a parcel of that size within close proximity to Park Avenue.”
“You’re squeezed between a successful college and a home-run hotel development,” Slowik said. “That’s a great, very unique position to be in.”