Urban Design Experts Weigh In on Fairbanks Redevelopment
Winter Park has commissioned a panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute think tank to examine potential improvements to Fairbanks Avenue between I-4 and US 17-92.
At a workshop on Tuesday the panel suggested burying utility lines, removing visual clutter and incorporating stormwater retention ponds into landscaping.
Panelist Jeff Oris, president of Planning and Redevelopment Consultants in Coconut Creek, said the benefits of burying powerlines go beyond aesthetics.
"We all get scared about hurricanes in this area. They don't nessarily come through this part of the state very often but when they do they wreak havoc," he said.
"if you put those things underground it's less disruption to life when it happens. So there's an extra benefit beyond the aesthetics, there's also the continuity of power provision after storms."
The cost of putting powerlines underground has been estimated between 8 and 12 million dollars.
Winter Park is already spending 8 million dollars to build a sewer along West Fairbanks.
Winter Park Vice Mayor Steve Leary said construction on the sewer will start in the next 6 months. He said it should help set the stage for redevelopment.
"What we’re trying to do is allow, whether they’re residents, whether they’re property owners, whether they’re possible future developers to come in and say ‘ok, the sewer’s in. This makes it more attractive for me to build a new house, for me to put in a business, for me to adjoin lots and create a bigger property to put a building on."
Leary said the city hasn’t decided which of the other improvements to adopt or how to fund them.
He said planning the redevelopment has not been an easy process, but Winter Park is trying to listen to all of the stake holders.
"We have some challenges out there," said Leary.
"The FDOT controls the road; Progress Energy owns the power lines; most of the road is on sewer, not septic; and a lot of the properties are in unincorporated Orange County."
Some residents and business owners who spoke at Tuesday's meeting said Winter Park was going about its redevelopment plan the right way.
But some said they felt excluded from the process.
Lisa Coney, who heads the Fairbanks Neighborhood and Merchants Association, said her group was formed to give local businesses a voice in the process.
"'We were looking at the drawings the city had created for their vision for the future and for form based codes and none of us were in those drawings," she says.
Coney, who works at a funeral home on West Fairbanks, said a proposal to add medians to the road would hinder access to businesses like hers.
However, Coney said she is hopeful the city will now work with merchants to develop its improvement plan.
Other residents in the Fairbanks area said Winter Park has not kept them informed about the proposed changes.
Steve Leary said the city is working to fix that.
"It's always disappointing when we don't communicate with our friends and neighbors, whether or not they vote in Winter Park," he said.
Leary said city staff will work to get the word out before the next redevelopment workshop.
In the mean time, the Urban Land Institute panel is asking for public comment while it compiles a list of recommendations. It aims to have a report ready for the city by the end of July.