WINDERMERE – Town leaders have committed resources to an ambitious initiative that would make Windermere a more pedestrian-, bike- and golf cart-friendly town in coming years.
After spending $19,971 on a study to acquire a professional opinion regarding the creation of a sidewalk that turns into a shared use path stretching from downtown to The Grove, the Town Council heard a presentation offering design recommendations by engineering consultant firm Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., during its April 11 meeting.
The feasibility study’s results inspired a cautious optimism as it established that the first prioritized phase of the town’s larger vision would be achievable but costly in both time and money.
According to the engineering firm, the estimated cost of the project is $1.4 million, which presents a significant challenge for town staff to accomplish its vision quickly given its borrowing restrictions.
“If we had been able to get that charter amendment passed, which would have increased our ability to take loans out, it wouldn’t have really been that much of an issue,” Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith said. “But because we have that handcuff that really no other municipality has, it’s going to be hard to fund not only this project, but all the projects. So a lot of the projects that we want to get done — and done now — will require us to put money away or borrow up to $600,000 and then come up with the reserves or find another way to fund it.”
Because of these financial restraints and other capital projects on the priority list, the first phase of the Sixth Avenue corridor — constructing a five-foot sidewalk on Sixth Avenue from Main Street to Lake Street — would be able to begin next year, but the entirety of the project, including all the phases, could take about five to 10 years to complete.
“It’s just a first step in trying to get the town more walkable, more pedestrian-friendly and safe, and I think once the entire project is done — depending on how long it’s going to take — it’s going to enhance the look of the town and just be a great addition.”
– Robert Smith
“The first focus would be from Sixth (Avenue) to The Grove area, and then the next one will be from downtown all the way to Windermere Elementary School and then from Windermere Elementary School over to the Windermere Recreation Center,” Smith said. “And that would basically connect all the parks to the school, the civic area, and hopefully, in the future, we would be able to connect with some of the Ocoee systems or some Winter Garden systems, too.”
Because of insufficient right-of-way space, the segment from Main Street to Lake Street would have five-foot concrete sidewalks on both sides of Sixth Avenue, and golf carts would continue using the street.
However, for the portion that stretches from Lake Street to the crosswalk east of Ridgewood Drive, asphalt paths of varying widths would be used to avoid impacting tree roots. The study then suggested a 12-foot-wide asphalt path be constructed from the crosswalk on Ridgewood Drive to the town’s eastern limits on Horizon Circle — but only on the south side.
Smith, emphasizing the project was just one piece of a long-range multimodal network plan, said it would take years to save up enough money to complete. But once the town begins analyzing the logistics of the multi-use path from Lake Street to Horizon Circle, he hopes to gather public input in community meetings and workshops.
“It’s just a first step in trying to get the town more walkable, more pedestrian-friendly and safe, and I think once the entire project is done — depending on how long it’s going to take — it’s going to enhance the look of the town and just be a great addition,” Smith said.
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]