City Presents Updated East Conservatory Plan | West Orange Times & Observer

Residents have been clear in stating what they want for the east side of Winter Garden – above all, they want affordable housing and security.

The Town of Winter Garden held a series of community charrettes and meetings last week to refocus its efforts on revitalizing East Winter Garden.

The project focuses on 10th and Center Streets, the intersection of Ninth Street and Story Road, and the corner of Ninth and Plant Streets – with an emphasis on Center Street and Orange Technical College – West Campus. The preservation of the OTC campus is important to residents as it is the former site of Drew High School.

More than 110 residents, most of whom live in East Winter Garden, gathered at City Hall on Thursday, June 2 to share their thoughts on what they want their revitalized neighborhood to look like.

City staff and representatives from planning firm Dover, Kohl & Partners briefed attendees on the plan that was launched in 2017 and halted, in part, by the pandemic. A survey determined that more than half of participants had participated in charrettes five years ago.

After the presentation, residents were asked to create maps showing how they envisioned the future of the east side.

“These ideas become the plan,” said Jason King, vice president and senior project manager for Dover Kohl.

City Commissioner Mark Maciel, who was unable to attend the meeting, spoke to people by phone and said city staff were working hard behind the scenes.

“I think now you’re going to see things start and move quickly,” he said.

He urged residents to stay involved in the planning process.

City Manager Jon C. Williams said the city is eager to receive feedback and improve the East Side in terms of homeownership, economic development, health and safety.

The presentation included short-term (two to five years from 2018), medium-term (six to 12 years), and long-term (13 to over 20 years) solutions. Williams said most short-term goals have been met. This includes adopting and promoting the East Winter Garden Plan, extending the life of the ARC from an expiration date of 2023 to 2033 (expected to generate $20-30 million over 10 years ), installing a traffic light at the intersection of Plant and 11th Streets, creating a code enforcement strategy and continuing to annex properties to the city.

Further annexations are expected, including enclaves along the Hennis and East Crown Point roads.

The city also continues to work with Orange County Public Schools to find an alternate location for a proposed bus complex on the Drew High/OTC property on Story Road.

Presenters asked residents about their attendance at city events in downtown Winter Garden and east Winter Garden, as well as what they would like to see in the former Center Street business district.

Some residents have opposed the return of businesses to Center Street, preferring that businesses – such as restaurants, offices and possibly a minority-owned hotel – be placed along East Plant Street to free up land for affordable housing. Residents want to maintain the scale of the neighborhood along the center, but don’t mind the multi-story commercial buildings on Plant, where there are fewer residents.

A participant asked where the parking would go if the businesses were on the Centre.

“Space is limited there,” said another. “If you’re going to put things there, you can’t take away the houses that are there as well. … There was a business district but there was also housing for people. If you put a parking garage there, you take away the potential for affordable housing.

“You design around these houses,” King said. “Every building there will be in the plan.”

DISTRICT TRANSFORMATION

Dover Kohl has been involved in the successful transformation of main streets in several black communities, including Thomasville, Georgia; Detroit; South of Miami; and Montgomery, Alabama.

It takes five steps, King said: rezoning to make non-compliant properties legal again; invest in streetscapes, as private investment follows public investment; engage CRA through tax increment funding; build a residential population within walking distance; and revitalize city parks.

Charrette participants were asked about options for Center Street, such as wider sidewalks, landscaping, bike racks, benches and lampposts. A majority was in favor of this equipment. Other suggestions for East Winter Garden were seniors’ housing, a community center, outdoor play areas, green space, and a pavilion.

OPEN DESIGN WORKSHOP

The design team spent Friday hosting smaller community discussions on economic development and the return of the eastern business district, housing, and preserving the legacy of Drew High School.

“You can’t have economic development with high crime,” said Ed Johnson, who was born at the former West Orange Memorial Hospital and grew up in Lincoln Terrace in east Winter Garden. “This (revitalization plan is) pretty, but until we get the drug issues under control, it’s not going to be safe. It won’t go anywhere. … We need to master this area – from crime to infrastructure. Everything must be mastered here. … If you don’t feel safe, it’s not safe.

At the Drew High School forum, King said the property takes up about seven blocks and there is room to implement a number of suggestions.

Natalie Lipsey, urban planner and urban designer at Dover Kohl & Associates, researched the space and pitched ideas.

“There are a lot of buildings there…and we want to keep as many as possible,” she said. “Some are trailer buildings, which could be turned into courtyard communities. (You could have) an affordable housing center around a communal green corridor. Mixed or different use shops, cafes, laundromats, lounges, cafes, could be with apartments above.

“The larger buildings could be meeting rooms, art studios, community spaces, different classrooms that would provide technical or soft skills classes, an incubator, and a historic center – the focal point of the street” , Lipsey said.

The north end of the property could offer sports, recreation, green spaces or a farmers market.

WORK IN PROGRESS

On Saturday morning, the city and design team took a walking tour of downtown Winter Garden and showcased all of the work completed over the past week. Everything presented will be printed in a book that can be used as a guide for the city.

For more information and updates on the plan, visit PlanEastWinterGarden.com.


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