Winter Park starts Orange Ave corridor planning, to consider mixed-use overlay

The city of Winter Park is embarking this week on a year of extensive planning for future development standards of its Orange Avenue corridor, including the use of a mixed-use overlay district that could drive redevelopment. 

Staff have enlisted Logan Simpson Design, Inc., to help lead a public discussion on future planning for the city's 0.7-mile stretch of Orange Avenue, which lies between the intersections with S. Orlando and W. Fairbanks avenues. 

"Logan Simpson managed our entire visioning process. With their knowledge of the city and this process being an extension of our vision, it made sense to incorporate them into this corridor development," director of planning and community development Dori Stone told GrowthSpotter. "In addition, they are pros at public involvement and consensus building." 

Initial meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week will be invitation-only for merchants and stakeholders from Orange Avenue and the surrounding area. 

Next week (June 26-30), the city is sponsoring a series of public open houses at the Winter Park Playhouse from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day, allowing residents to participate in an interactive survey of preferences for the Orange Avenue corridor. 

A final report is expected from Logan Simpson in late August or early September. 

A linchpin of the Orange Avenue corridor is the city-owned Progress Point site, spanning 3.7 acres at 1150 N. Orange Ave. The vacant building and property were acquired in 2011 and haven't been redeveloped by the city since. 

A lone offer was made in 2015 for $4.5 million by an affiliate of Bridge Investment Group Partners, which proposed an assisted living facility and restaurant redevelopment. The offer was turned away by city commissioners. 

Directly east is a 1.88-acre parcel at 1100 N. Orange that's home to a former bank branch, and has been marketed for sale or redevelopment for more than a year by Colliers International. 

The two vacant properties make up nearly half of the prominent "Five Corners" intersection in the middle of Winter Park's N. Orange Avenue corridor, where buyer interest has been chilled by a lack of redevelopment vision from the city.

"We're still in purgatory on Progress Point, and haven't had a (purchase) offer in a year and a half," Ross Johnston, managing director at C-Acquire Consulting and member of Winter Park's Planning & Zoning Board, said in late May. "The Five Corners area and Progress Point will dictate the future of Orange Avenue." 

The Orange Avenue corridor plan must be developed over the next year in conjunction with other key code updates Winter Park officials plan to tackle. 

City commissioners approved a Comprehensive Plan update in April, done every seven years, which has since been under review for compliance by the state's Department of Economic Opportunity. The Comp Plan sets overarching guidelines for new development applications.

City staff are now working on a land development code update so zoning districts are in compliance with the Comp Plan. Notable changes will likely be removal of high-density R-4 zoning, and limiting requests for parking variance, potentially to just 5 percent of a project's overall parking needs. 

Staff are also considering a new mixed-use district or overlay, a first for Winter Park. GAI Consultants is working on analysis of mixed-use districts in Florida to drum up the best examples of how to define such an overlay.

The first area that a mixed-use overlay could be placed is on the Progress Point parcel. City staff have been studying land value variations for the property based on types of use, floor area ratios and heights up to five stories, which will be key in determining how Winter Park proceeds with terms of sale for that land. 

A mixed-use overlay could cover more of the Orange Avenue corridor than just one parcel. City staff have a 12-month window from the Comp Plan update in April to research mixed-use strategy, and decide on a course of action.

"We have to get the Orange Avenue corridor planning and the mixed-use overlay done first to facilitate Progress Point sale interest," said Stone at a PZB meeting in late May. 

A similar corridor plan for W. Fairbanks Avenue will also be studied after the Orange Avenue corridor. Large tracts of land have been targeted there for development, and while some shallow lots would pose a challenge, developers have shown interest in assemblages, Stone said. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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