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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 2 years ago

Windermere Prep discusses plans for expansion, new buildings

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Proposed changes to Windermere Prep’s campus include a new two-story theater and an expanded café.
by: Danielle Hendrix Black Tie Editor

WINDERMERE  Windermere Preparatory School and Orange County staffs introduced several large changes to the campus during a Jan. 21 community meeting at the school’s Learning Commons.

Two of the biggest changes include plans for a two-story visual- and performing-arts theater and changes to external and internal traffic flows.

The new building would house all visual- and performing-arts classes, as well as school performances. Plans for it include a fly loft, which houses scenery, drapery and equipment needed to put on productions. School staff said it hopes to equip visual- and performing-arts students with all the knowledge necessary to not only perform in but also to run a production, and that a fly loft is crucial to that experience. 

“Our goal is to have a full immersive experience with our students,” WPS Managing Director John McCall said of the visual- and performing-arts center.

The theater would seat 700, with 550 on the main floor and 150 on the balcony, and school staff said it hopes to have the building ready to go for the 2017-18 school year.

However, despite a 1998 agreement that calls for campus buildings to not exceed 35 feet in height, having a fly loft will require a height variance of 5 feet for the main building and 13 feet for the loft. Existing variances are the gym and high-school buildings, which each stand at 40 feet high. 

Corrie Graham’s two children, Lyla and Jack, both attend Windermere Prep, and Lyla is currently participating in her fourth production at the school. Additionally, Graham’s parents, Arnold and Pat, live in a home on Marleon Drive right behind the school

“Their theater program is amazing; the shows are absolutely superb,” Corrie Graham said. “It’s a pain because the school doesn’t have a theater, so they have to rent space at the Garden Theatre, which is nice, but it makes it a little hard for practicing because they have to just use a classroom space; they don’t have the actual theater to practice on. One of the big contentions at the meeting was the fly space height requirement, but that space is needed for equipment, lighting and props. I don’t think a lot of the people understand how important that is to the theater program.”

A proposed rendering for the performing-arts center.

A second proposed new building is an expansion to the 1,000-square-foot cafeteria. McCall said the current setup has between 80 to 100 students at any one time and an expansion is needed to seat them inside.

“It’s important that, as we continue to grow, students have a place to enjoy their lunch out of the elements,” McCall said.

The expansion would consist of a two-story, 35-feet-high building of up to 6,000 square feet, next to the track. It would seat 400 students and include lower-, main-, high-top and mezzanine-level seating, as well as an exterior patio.

Another proposal of particular concern to residents included multiple roadway modifications, mainly internal to the campus. In the wake of a traffic consultation from TMC Traffic & Mobility Consultants LLC, points of concern regarding traffic included limited campus entrance and exit capacities and complicated internal traffic circulation patterns. 

TMC proposed solving the external circulation issues by widening the primary driveway to four lanes, adding and extending a second ingress lane, allowing dual left turns and relocating the gate farther back. Internally, proposed solutions include more parking and a new high-school entrance.

Other points of discussion included increasing student enrollment capacity from 1,200 to 1,600 and capping staff capacity at 250 (current staff is at 180); reducing the size of and relocating the maintenance facility to the back of the campus; modifying the north and west berms; and allowing Kensington Church, which currently uses the gym for its Sunday services, to use the new performing-arts center instead.

With the discussion of increasing student enrollment, some residents showed concern for additional traffic on County Road 535 during the prime hours, particularly in conjunction with traffic that the new relief high school down the road will bring. 

Additionally, nearby homeowners from the Waterstone community and Kelso Homeowners Association were concerned with noise and lights from the theater, as well as modifications to the north and west berms and their landscaping.

For more information on Windermere Prep expansion plans, contact Orange County Case Planner Rocco Relvini, [email protected] or (407) 836-5386.

 

Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].

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