The future of Winter Park’s Progress Point site, as illustrated in a recent report paid for by the city, shows the potential for a private partnership to help activate 3.5 acres of publicly-owned land along Orange Avenue.
At a City Commission meeting last week, Winter Park-based ACi Architects presented conceptual illustrations and development parameters for Progress Point, a long-time contested topic for residents in the area looking for a say in what the future of the property may look like.
According to city documents, ACi utilized a charrette process that entailed surveying 750 participants with either expertise or some sort of stake in the matter to help explore a public-private initiative to create more active green space in the community at the corner of Orange Avenue and Denning Drive.
Using the information provided in the presentation, commissioners can decide whether or not to issue a Request for Proposals with the guidelines provided in the presentation. Some of the key components include designing a public park, creating more public parking spaces and the possibility of future buildings that could house cultural activities and commercial uses.
“This vision was to offer the Orange Avenue gateway corridor a unique place-making and economic development opportunity to cultivate a more vibrant village-scale destination,” a presentation delivered at the meeting states.
The RFP would be seeking private or non-profit candidates.
Conceptual plans for the park include lush landscaping, wide pedestrian pathways, formal lawns, water fountains, programming activities, and outside seating to help activate the park space. The budget for the 1.5-acre public park component falls within $3.1 million, city documents show.
According to the redevelopment guidelines a maximum of 40,000 square feet of commercial space, including rooftop uses, is allowed.
Commercial buildings should serve as a “supporting anchor” for the park, the guidelines state. The maximum allowable single-tenant space on the ground floor is 6,300 square feet. Storefronts are encouraged to be transparent, with large balconies. Renderings show warm materials such as wood, stone, brick, and exposed steel being used for commercial buildings.
The park design was envisioned to run between and around the main buildings, along both sides of a parking garage that will feature public art and connect to Cypress Avenue.
Potential uses for the commercial buildings include micro-restaurants, rooftop bar/dining, shops, shared workspace, galleries and wellness services. Conceptual plans illustrate a brewery along Palmetto Avenue.
Conceptual art for the rooftop consists of outdoor seating options, visible landscaping, string lights and a mix of umbrellas and roof planes for shade. Allowable uses include dining, exercise space and bar/lounge space that would look out over the park.
Proposals would also need to feature a contribution to parking needs for small businesses in the area. The ground floor building area for the conceptual parking garage totals 33,825 square feet. In plans, the parking garage sits on about 0.78 acres of space.
According to ACi’s report, the best way to lure in private investment or end-users is for the city to sell the commercial portion of the land to the private sector. The city could also sell development rights to a developer who would be able to finance the entire site.
“This makes the deal size a bit larger and gives the developer some control of the parking which could both open up the financing to more lenders on a national scale,” the report says. The developer could also lease back the garage to the city or try to utilize bond financing to build the garage, pad sites and park.
Over the last decade, several unsolicited conceptual designs from multiple groups of citizens have gone before previous and current city commissioners. As a result, city staff members were directed to further study different possibilities for the site.
Progress Point will function as an important component of the proposed Orange Avenue Overlay District currently under review.
City commissioners must decide whether or not to approve a city phasing plan to start the park component in accordance with the redevelopment and go through the RFP process.