Dover, Kohl & Partners town-planning firm presented its vision during a charrette July 14.
An evening charrette presentation on Friday, July 14, drew a crowd of residents eager to see computer-generated images of what the east Winter Garden community could look like with the proper planning and support.
A series of before-and-after photographs were shown, and the “improved” scenes included tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks, streetlights and bike paths, as well as businesses lining the streets.
“This is the culmination of everything we’ve been talking about in Winter Garden,” said City Commissioner Mark Maciel.
The event was the end of a weeklong process starting with an information meeting on town planning and community revitalization, plus a hands-on design session at the Maxey Community Center. Following this presentation on Monday, July 10, attendees participated in drawing their vision for the future of their community.
More than 120 people — including property owners, developers, city staff, church pastors, volunteers and residents — were at the Monday event. When asked to share one word that sums up their community, many answered with words such as “forgotten,” “history,” “potential,” “neglected,” “behind” and “economy.” They also shared one-word answers for the future of their neighborhood: “affordable,” “updated,” “connected,” “businesses,” “improved” and “thriving.”
“This is a community that believes, hopes that the future will be better than the past,” said Jason King, principal, vice president and senior project director with Dover, Kohl & Partners town-planning firm in Coral Gables.
Even the children had ideas for what they wanted to see. The Boys & Girls Club meets nearby, and the young attendees were asked to draw what they thought their ideal city could look like. They drew houses of all types; one student drew a multi-modal city with scooters, walkers, cars, a train and multi-use businesses along the street.
They might not be too far off, either.
The Dover Kohl design team sifted through the suggestions from Monday and put together a plan by Friday. The five big ideas were creating one Winter Garden (more connections to downtown Winter Garden, additional jobs and businesses in east Winter Garden); increasing affordable housing options; adding to health and recreation, safety and security; allowing new destinations within walking and biking distance; and continuing support for initiatives underway.
King and his team created a design plan that would reconfigure the intersection of 10th and Plant streets with public space framed by new buildings. Additional development along 10th Street would offer a variety of housing types: mixed-use, live-work, apartments, townhomes and small to large homes.
One new affordable-housing concept is courtyard housing, which includes two-bedroom, one-bath houses as small as 480 square feet. Other affordable-housing options are city-built Community Development Block Grant homes, as well as homes built by Habitat For Humanity.
“We're trying to fit people in this area, and we're trying to do it affordably,” King said.
Residents have said they want new destinations within walking and biking distance, green space, art and community-based businesses.
King showed a photo of Center Street with improved sidewalks, relocated power lines, planted trees along the rights-of-way and new businesses.
“It’s up to you how far you want the city to take this,” King said. Is it really going to happen? If you stay committed, positive, realistic. Support the good things already underway. And engage.”
King said his firm does similar work in many different areas of the state, but he has faith in Winter Garden’s proven track record.
Karl McKenzie, a 16-year resident of Winter Garden and president of the East Winter Garden Community Development Corp., said his city is a down-to-earth place to live but thinks much of the plans are doable.
“If we can get investors to come in and support locally owned businesses, it can happen,” he said. “I think it can happen if the community stays involved.”
His group has spent the last decade holding benefits and offering scholarships to deserving students in the community. It also helps senior citizens and physically challenged residents with maintenance on their homes.
Ida Williams and Dorothy Richards, of Health By Design, a mobile health screening and health education organization, participated in the charrette and said they think these plans will greatly improve the community.
Harold Bouler, a former Winter Garden city commissioner who represented the east side, is pleased with the community turnout.
“I think people are really engaged in what we’re doing now,” he said. “I think it’s time. It’s something we’ve been praying for. … I think the transition is going to change to change the mindset of our youth, which would stop the vicious circle of growing up and never seeing anything but what's in this Winter Garden.”
For up-to-date information on the project, go to planeastwintergarden.com.
Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].