Winter Park moves Fairbanks makeover plans forward

Making over city gateway

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  • | 7:12 a.m. June 18, 2015
Photo by: Tim Freed - Fairbanks Avenue is getting another beauty treatment designed to improve the view and maybe business along the city's west end.
Photo by: Tim Freed - Fairbanks Avenue is getting another beauty treatment designed to improve the view and maybe business along the city's west end.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Winter Park has taken yet another step to spruce up one of its most neglected corridors.

The Winter Park City Commission approved a three-way deal between Duke Energy and the Florida Department of Transportation last Monday to underground power lines along the south side of Fairbanks Avenue, stretching from Interstate 4 to just east of U.S. Highway 17-92.

An ongoing effort to underground the city’s power lines prevents maintenance workers from being forced to make V-shaped cuts, splitting tree canopies in half to avoid power lines — a type of pruning many residents and City Commissioners are against.

The City Commission also gave approval on June 8 for new decorative street lighting along the south side of the busy thoroughfare, placed along the same stretch of Fairbanks where the new undergrounding will take place.

It’s all part of a greater initiative to revitalize Fairbanks Avenue and bring in more economic development.

“I don’t want to get more phone calls saying, ‘Hey, I turned onto Fairbanks and I don’t think I’m in Winter Park,’” Mayor Leary said at the Good Morning Winter Park event last Friday.

“We’re getting there.”

The undergrounding deal involves Winter Park designing the project while Duke Energy completes the actual work. A total of $11.5 million in funding will come from FDOT.

“I was under the impression that this was a really important project to the city of Winter Park as it relates to our economic development associated with West Fairbanks,” Electric Utility Director Jerry Warren said.

“You can’t turn down that money to do something that’s so important to the city.”

Winter Park made another move toward improving business along the corridor by approving a new storefront grant program last November. Businesses and property owners along Fairbanks are being offered up to $5,000 in cosmetic changes to signs and storefronts through the program, which reimburses applicants for up to 25 percent of their improvement costs.

“A well-manicured corridor is attractive to business owners and patrons alike,” the agenda item read during the Nov. 10, 2014 meeting. “This program’s intent is to increase interest in the Fairbanks Avenue area.”

Other recent improvements and incentives along Fairbanks Avenue include the removal of five large billboards, repaving of the roads, and a water/sewer impact fee deferral program that requires businesses to only pay the first 20 percent of impact fees up front and the remaining 80 percent over the next 24 months.

“[We’re] looking at encouraging redevelopment and encouraging people to move off a septic system [and] onto sewer and water,” said Planning and Community Development Director Dori Stone last June. “We understand that there’s always an expense to that and we’re trying to get that area of our community to be proactive and move up.”

Leary said the city is still looking for more ways to improve Fairbanks Avenue.