Winter Garden opening community resource center

The city is putting the facility on the east end of Winter Garden to begin the area’s revitalization.

This building will be transformed into a community resource center for residents in east Winter Garden.
This building will be transformed into a community resource center for residents in east Winter Garden.
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East Winter Garden residents will soon have a place to apply for jobs, seek community services, obtain housing assistance and more.

The city of Winter Garden has been working on huge plans for the east side and is ready to launch the revitalization efforts in the community. City Manager Jon C. Williams calls the next step “an asset for the residents of Winter Garden.”

A 1,000-square-foot modular building has been placed at 125 Center St. near 10th Street to serve as a Community Resource Center and to provide programming and services to residents.

A jobs center, housing assistance, business opportunities, a Healthy West Orange kiosk, community liaison office, meeting space and additional community services will be offered. The public will be invited to an open house in late spring or early summer to learn more about all that will be offered.

“The overall area was identified as the East Winter Garden Plan, which was to plan jointly with the city and residents of Winter Garden,” Williams said. “They felt a good way to jumpstart the community was with this community center.”

Winter Garden City Commissioner Mark Maciel, who represents this district, said former City Manager Mike Bollhoefer envisioned such a neighborhood location.

“It is meant to be the center of our improvement efforts in east Winter Garden,” Maciel said.
A jobs center will make all city of Winter Garden job opportunities accessible to the community with a computer to submit an online application. Current job opportunities include a plans examiner, building maintenance personnel, mechanic, parks supervisor, public service worker, police officers, school crossing guards, school resource officers, and solid waste and public utilities workers according to City Hall.

“The city is looking for good people to fill these jobs and would like to provide our residents with an opportunity to apply for them,” Williams said.

Plans for the facility still are being developed, he said. The city expects to offer job fairs and will invite community-resource organizations to share their services.

“There’s a lot of available resources out there, and I just don’t think everything is consolidated in a central location,” Williams said. “I think by having a community liaison for residents as their needs come up will be an asset for the entire community.

The city currently is not staffed with a Health/Social Services Department; staff is creating additional duties for its personnel to be sure the city can make the needed services available. 

“Further, city staff and I will be available to meet with residents at the resource center when the need arises,” Maciel said.

Winter Garden Police Officer James McLeod, who is a member of the city’s Community Liaison Unit, will have an office there and will have set office hours when he’s not out in the community.

“I am looking forward to working in east Winter Garden again and will support and help the community any way I can,” McLeod said.

Maciel said many residents have been attending community meetings and speaking with him and city staff — and they are supportive of the resource center and all it will offer.

“There was some misinformation about this building being a police substation; that was never the intention,” he said. “That said, the city and I need to be more communicative with the residents. COVID has made it difficult to have regular meetings. We are scheduling a community meeting for late February, early March, pandemic permitting. I encourage all residents to stay involved and attend community meetings.”
The cost of the building is $136,725, and the site cost was close to $115,000, Williams said. The building and its programming are funded by the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency.

He said the center will remain at that location for three to five years. Once it is removed, the property will be redeveloped with commercial and residential uses.

“As I meet and speak with the east Winter Garden residents, I am constantly being reminded of the needs of the community,” Maciel said. “This location is at the heart of our efforts. I encouraged the city to buy this property even before I became commissioner. At some point in the distant future, it's the city's intention to make this property available to a development that will benefit the community.
The Community Resource Center is a vital step to the revitalization efforts at 10th and Center Streets to breathe life back into the historic business district for east Winter Garden. 

“I'm passionate about improvements to the east Winter Garden community,” Maciel said. “The annexation, CRA, resident involvement and city support are the real engines behind our efforts.”



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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