Over the last year your Chamber of Commerce has been actively engaged in conversations and advocacy in the planning of the redevelopment of the Chain of Lakes complex. This property is located on the corner of US 17 and Cypress Gardens Blvd on the shores of Lake Lulu. For many, this property is seen as a "crown jewel" of possibility for Winter Haven, allowing for the beautification of one of our busiest gateways.
In May of 2016 three firms (all of which are Chamber members!) replied to the request for proposal for the opportunity to master plan this site. The RFP committee selected Envisors: A Pennoni Company whose team also includes Chamber member WMB Architecture as well as Littlejohn, EwingCole and Crossroads Consulting Company. In October 2016, Envisors, with a team lead by project manager Beth Evans, was given the notice to proceed to begin working on the master plan. Since that time they have taken a contingent of City and County staff to different facilities a recreational complexes around Central Florida as well as in the Northeast where Pennoni is headquartered and has worked on several similar (albeit larger scale) projects. In November they held numerous stakeholder meetings with community members and current potential users of the site. Last week they held a two-day public design charrette which is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. They came up with three potential designs which they presented at a commission workshop on Tuesday. Three of the five commissioners were in attendance (Mayor Dantzler and Commissioners Birdsong and Twyford). They had a consensus (no official vote) on the design entitled "Grand Commons." Read more on what is being considered in this post.
The funding for this project is a cooperative between the County's Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing and the City of Winter Haven. The County has committed through a Memorandum of Understanding to reimburse the City up to $1 million in design and planning costs. They have also discussed $10 million towards the completion of a field house on the property. The City anticipates bonding for the remainder of the phase 1 project (which elements have yet to be defined)
The Envisors team is approaching this projects as a long-term master plan. This is KEY. While we may not be able to do everything on the master plan right now, it is integral to the success of the development to have a roadmap of what the site will and could be. They look at this as a vital HUB to Winter Haven.
One of the primary elements needed on the site (and is the key to County funding) is the development of an indoor field house on the property. The County believes this is an important element to the development of the sports marketing program and is an important part of the recent Orlando Magic Development Team announcement. The field house will include numerous basketball courts and/or multi-purpose courts for various sports. Multipurpose is also a key word in this project. This space will also have to be used for meetings and convention space.
Summary of Key Market Findings
The Envisor team has included an economic analysis for the needs that can be met through the development of this site for both economic development and the community at large.
Market Research Indicates Demand for Both New Construction and Enhancements to Existing Facilities
Based off of the market analysis, the needs for the following assets were prioritized:
Challenges of the Site
While the location is outstanding, there are challenges to this site that will have to be addressed.
Programming Summary: Site
Potential site amenities outside of the fieldhouse and theatre/art gallery renovations:
Fields and Courts
The Envisors Team presented 3 concepts they developed during the public design charrette. The 3 concepts are pictured below. As mentioned earlier in this post the commisioners in attendance at the workshop agreed that concept 3, i.e. Grand Commons, was their favorite.
The concept of Grand Commons creates a emphasis on opening the property to views of Lake Lulu. This plan also allows for the field house to be expanded and for a parking garage to be added adjacent to the field house facility. this concept also includes entry way to the property from US 17. The previous development of the property into "The Landings" had tentative approval of a traffic light at this intersection based off of their visitation projections. It is unclear at this time whether the projections of visitors based off this new site plan would qualify. There will be upcoming meetings with the FDOT to discuss just this.
While not in phase 1, the existing Theatre Winter Haven, Ridge Art Gallery and aquatics complex renovaton are an important part of the site redevelopment.
Pros of Grand Commons