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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 2 weeks ago

City approves grant for neighborhood revitalization in east Winter Garden

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The $40,000 grant will allow West Orange Habitat for Humanity to improve a minimum of 16 homes over an 18-month period.
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

The city of Winter Garden approved recently a grant to address one of the biggest challenges in the east Winter Garden community — housing. 

The $40,000 grant, which will allow West Orange Habitat for Humanity to improve a minimum of 16 homes over an 18-month period, was approved at the Thursday, July 28, City Commission meeting. 

A HAND UP

The Neighborhood Revitalization program allows Habitat to work collaboratively with stakeholders, community leaders, partners and homeowners to initiate and complete exterior home improvement projects on low-income area homes in the community. 

The goal of neighborhood revitalization is to improve the quality of life for residents of the east Winter Garden community; serve more families through housing with an array of services; act as a catalyst to build community and attract investment through intra-community leadership and civic engagement; and increase the understanding or relationship between housing and economic, social and physical wellbeing, according to Habitat. 

“Habitat can help neighborhoods become stronger, more resilient and more sustainable than ever before by approaching neighborhoods holistically and expanding our housing programs,” Habitat Executive Director Marilyn Hattaway said. “Neighborhood revitalization is not just a program. It is the way of the future.” 

In east Winter Garden, 17 existing homes during the past year have been preserved for low-income families, providing residents with tools to work together and encouraging their active participation in shaping the future of their own community. 

The neighborhood revitalization will occur in two cycles throughout the year, each lasting four to five months and consisting of four stages: intake, assessment, action, and engagement and evaluation. 

“We are fortunate to have a partner like Habitat for Humanity,” City Commissioner Mark A. Maciel said. “They have been crucial in our efforts to revitalize east Winter Garden. Building generational wealth for this community is our top priority.”

While new home construction is Habitat’s core work, the nonprofit cannot transform neighborhoods through new construction alone.

Although the program is closed to new applications at this time, Habitat said it will inform the community when it reopens.

MAINSTREET COMMUNITY BANK

City commissioners approved unanimously, with Maciel absent, a series of ordinances pertaining to a request to annex the county properties at 12950 and 12962 W. Colonial Drive; 648 Magnolia St.; and a portion of the Magnolia Street right of way into the city.

The ordinances included a request to assign the properties as a Commercial Future Land Use designation and rezone the entire subject property to Planned Commercial Development to permit the development of the site with a new bank building. 

The 4,000-square-foot bank will include three drive-thru banking lanes, a 3,000-square-foot office building and a 4,200-square-foot office building on the property. 

The project also includes associated site elements such as landscaping, sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure. 

Community Development Director Steve Pash said the proposed annexation, FLU amendment and rezoning is consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and code of ordinances. 

Mayor John Rees emphasized the importance of demolition of the buildings, as mentioned in the first reading of the ordinances at the Thursday, July 14, meeting. 

Pash said he has had discussions with the owner in relation to the concern. 

“Their goal is to have it done in the next six months,” Pash said. “To get their site plan approval, have the demolition, have all of it happen at the same time.”

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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