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Photo: Rendering courtesy of city of Winter Park - A group of Winter Park residents are starting a petition to prohibit the city's new library from being built in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Mar. 24, 2016 4 years ago

Winter Park plans next step for new library project

It passed, what's next?
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Winter Park said ‘yes’ to funding a new library, but what happens next?

Residents made their voices heard during last Tuesday’s general election on the matter of funding a new library with a bond referendum of up to $30 million, which passed by the slim margin of 51 to 49 percent. The unofficial count was 5,412 in favor and 5,199 against.

A new Winter Park library will be combined with a new civic center, planned for the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Park and replacing the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center that stands there today.

The vote marks a new chapter for the Winter Park Public Library, which was struggling with space, outdated facilities and faulty wiring, said library Director of Community Relations Mary Gail Coffee.

“We’re beyond thrilled,” Coffee said. “We’re excited for our community. We’re excited for the services and new programs that we can provide.”

“I think it’s huge for the city, I’ve been saying that all along,” library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer said. “Especially when the Commissioners added the civic center, it became a much bigger project, a much bigger thing for the city.”

“The library truly serves the entire community from birth to infinity and the opportunities we’re going to have in a new building are just amazing.”

The city and the Winter Park Public Library now turn their attention toward finding an architect. City spokesperson Clarissa Howard said Winter Park has already sent out a request for qualifications (RFQ) to architects across the nation, looking to narrow it down to a firm most qualified to construct Winter Park’s new house for books.

Coffee said the RFQ has been sent to more than 100 different firms, specifically targeting architects with experience building libraries.

Once the city selects an architect, there will be a great deal of public input from the community on the actual design of the facility, which is still to be determined, Coffee said.

“Now that this is real, we get to have a real conversation with our community about what they want this to look like and feel like,” Coffee said. “The architects, once they are onboard, will help us with that community engagement process and make this the library that’s really for everybody.”

The City Commission will also have to decide how much of the up-to-$30 million bond they wish to use, Coffee said, but for now, library staff are simply enjoying the fact that a new facility is on the horizon.

“We believe we’re somewhere between two and a half and three years from opening a new library,” said Coffee, adding that the library believes any kind of groundbreaking won’t happen until a year from now.

“We’re excited about the conversations to come about how we’re going to make all these dreams a reality for our community.”

Howard said the RFQs are due back from the architecture firms by April 21.

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