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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 2 months ago

Rollins College dormitory project moving forward

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The college plans to construct a 250,000-square-foot dormitory and a parking garage of at least 777 spaces.
by: Tim Freed Associate Editor

A new dormitory and a new parking garage are the latest projects taking shape at Rollins College, which seeks to bring more of its students back to campus life.

Winter Park’s Planning and Zoning Board gave final approval on a 250,000-square-foot dormitory project for Rollins College at its Tuesday, Jan. 8, meeting. It also gave preliminary approval for a parking garage of at least 777 spaces set for the southwest corner of Fairbanks and Ollie avenues.

Rollins’ new dormitory would consist of two buildings — surrounding where McKean Hall sits today — and would house about 500 beds, compared to McKean Hall’s capacity of 250 to 275 beds. Once construction is complete, McKean Hall will be torn down to make way for a courtyard and pool area.

Rollins College President Grant Cornwell said the larger dorm isn’t a reflection of the college trying to grow but rather an attempt to bring its existing students (the junior class) to the on-campus lifestyle.

Only 60% of Rollins College students can live on campus because of space constraints, Cornwell said.

“We want to add this residential capacity, because so many of our students have to live off-campus because we don’t have room,” he said. “We believe … living and learning on campus is part of the educational program. What students learn outside of the classroom, living with their peers, going to lectures, athletic events and music events and just the very dynamic of campus life is part of the value that we bring, part of the difference of a Rollins education from other styles. … Through our planning process, I think we came up with a brilliant and very exciting way to increase our residential capacity on campus.”

Cornwell said the new dormitory also should go a long way in keeping Rollins College competitive with other liberal arts colleges. With some of its existing housing getting older, McKean Hall — built more than 60 years ago — is at the top of the list of dormitories that need to be replaced, he said.

“What you’ll see today is a plan that has us not just meet but vastly exceed the benchmark of what student housing is like today,” Cornwell said. “We will be setting that standard, and I’m very excited about that.”

The new parking garage set for the southwest corner of Fairbanks and Ollie avenues would be built on top of an existing surface parking lot and result in 589 net new spaces on campus.

Winter Park Planning Manager Jeff Briggs said the new garage being on the south side of Fairbanks Avenue would potentially free up parking spaces in the existing SunTrust parking garage across the street.

“We’re going to talk about the Alfond hotel expansion next month, and so there’s going to be vacancy in the garage for that project,” Briggs said. “Later on many months from now or whenever, we may be talking about the Lawrence Center and other opportunities on that block. There’s going to be some surplus to play with in this parking garage once the folks move across the street.”

Residents all spoke in support of the dormitory and garage projects during public comment at the meeting.

“(I) can speak to the level of quality that Rollins does for their work — I think it’s been illustrated here today by both the team and the project,” resident Jeffrey Blydenburgh said. “I fully support the work that they’ve done and look forward to seeing it go forward. As far as parking is concerned, it will do a huge amount for alleviating parking issues.”

Briggs said both requests are scheduled to go before the City Commission in the coming weeks, with the parking garage requiring a second approval by the Planning and Zoning Board.

Tim Freed is an Associate Editor with the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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