A 1.07-acre property at the northeast corner of Main and Smith streets soon will house a 38-unit boutique apartment building and cafe.
Winter Garden commissioners approved an ordinance Thursday, Dec. 10, that will rezone the property — located at 199 S. Main St. and 158 S. Woodland St. — from Central Commercial District to Planned Unit Development.
The rezoning paves the way for a new two- to three-story building with 38 apartment units and a cafe on the first-floor corner unit.
According to city documents, there will be a 54-space parking lot within the site’s interior area. The building will front the road and obscure the parking lot, which will be accessed off South Woodland Street. Tenants will have one parking space per bedroom.
The project is known as Smith Street Luxury Studios. Elevations show it will feature Mediterranean revival/mission-style architecture with a light-colored stucco exterior and a full-barrel tile roof. Each unit will have access to a shared interior courtyard space.
“We want architecture that is authentic to the time period that it’s built that will add to that eclectic, vibrant, small-town urban flavor of Winter Garden,” said city urban designer Kelly Carson. “But we also want it to blend harmoniously with the existing historic architecture here without awkwardly trying to recreate it. In short, we are creating tomorrow’s heritage.
“Staff does recognize that at the end of the day, the Mediterranean revival style may just not be somebody’s particular cup of tea — and that’s OK,” Carson said, addressing previous questions and concerns on architectural style. “People have their personal preferences. But what you cannot say is that it’s inconsistent or not present in the existing character of Winter Garden.”
Overall, the building will contain 45,750 square feet. There will be 28 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom apartment units ranging in size from 720 to 1,030 square feet.
City Manager Mike Bollhoefer noted that although city staff has strict requirements and guidelines for developers to follow in the historic downtown district overlay, those guidelines relax as developments get farther from downtown.
“The last thing you want in a downtown city is a pattern of the same throughout the entire region,” Bollhoefer said. “The area becomes mundane, there’s too much of the same stuff, it becomes boring, and it doesn’t become an interesting-looking downtown. It’s not good for long-term vitality of the downtown. We believe that this type of thing … is actually a good addition to the city, because it makes it more interesting. We would never approve this type of architecture on Plant Street.”
Resident Phil Baker said it looks like project staff chose to apply a residential style to a commercial building, and he believes it will stick out.
“Please maintain the historic integrity of Winter Garden,” Baker said. “Let’s not create a white elephant on the corner.”
Commissioner Mark Maciel and Mayor John Rees also had their reservations. Maciel admitted he questioned the architecture, but he also knows that if city staff tells him it will be a quality project, he trusts them.
Rees had concerns about the smaller living space in each unit.
“The project is good to a degree, and the architecture, we can all be a critic, but it’s not that bad,” Rees said. “I’m just more concerned about the size — and lack of size — of their rooms — 700 (square) feet. … To live in, I would just prefer something different.”
Local business owner Jerry Birket said he thought the project would be a great addition to the city.
“Over the last nine or 10 years we’ve been here, the city has done a phenomenal job preserving the historic aspects of the city while also blossoming into and growing the property values, both residential and commercial,” Birket said. “I think this project will continue that growth. … This will be another step in the right direction.”
Commissioners approved the rezoning 4-1, with Rees dissenting.