Winter Park unveils plans for Sitzmark land development
November 5, 2013
WINTER PARK — Winter Park's citizens and town council members filled town hall on Friday, Oct. 25, to catch a glimpse and comment on the possible development alternatives for the Sitzmark properties, giving a large amount of support to the ideas of building a civic center and marketplace at the two properties.
Van Meter Williams Pollack LLP, the urban design firm the town has contracted to design the developments for the two town-owned properties, presented three design alternatives that featured a variety of amenities at the two locations, located at the North entrance to the town.
During the meeting, the town's residents were encouraged to make comments on the three design alternatives by voicing their opinions during the public comment period of the meeting or write comments down on flashcards or sticky notes and place them on the designs themselves.
"There was a lot of good dialogue and diversity of opinion, and it was interesting to see everyone's written notes on the cards," said Tim Van Meter, of Van Meter Williams Pollack.
The three design alternatives approached ideas — everything from a large box grocery store to smaller retail centers with mixed-use housing. The alternatives that were presented were meant to exaggerate the development opportunities for the two properties to get an idea of what the town's citizens believed would best suit the town at those locations, Van Meter said during the meeting.
Some amenities that seemed to stand out over others during the meeting included a civic center and a smaller market, both of which drew a large amount of support from the meeting's attendees.
The idea to build a civic center generated interest as a possible way to attract visitors to the town on a year-round basis by providing a place for conferences, indoor concerts and weddings. A civic center would also provide a gathering place for locals to conduct meetings and serve as a community center for various events.
"The overwhelming favorite was the civic and or cultural facility," Van Meter said. "Something that can stretch the season or make Winter Park a more of a year-round place by having more year-round events."
Members of the public also tossed around ideas of making the civic center into an educational center where visitors and residents alike can learn more about the area. One of the design alternatives that featured a civic center also incorporated a pocket park into the design plan that would help to draw people toward the Fraser River, which runs directly behind the properties.
Winter Park's growing reputation as a destination for concerts and summer events was discussed and that the popularity of the town's events could see a boost if a mixed-use civic center could host music and other events during the winter months.
Marketplace and other amenities
While the idea of a large box grocery store didn't draw as much interest from the crowd, a smaller fresh-food-based market did drum up some excitement.
Citizens seemed to be receptive to a market facility, but not as a stand-alone facility, Van Meter said.
Discussion also circulated around the improvements the town is completing to the north portal of the town, including the installation of the stoplight at the Kings Crossing intersection and the updates to the available parking in the area.
One resident commented that the new stoplight was possibly "the best stoplight in the State of Colorado" and that the town should utilize that new amenity.
The design alternatives that were presented during the meeting all featured some form of updated roadways that would connect with the new intersection to allow for easier access to whatever developments there will be. The designs also featured mixed-use trails to allow for better pedestrian movement at the locations.
Other ideas that were incorporated into the design alternatives were ideas surrounding retail space that could potentially have affordable housing built above them. Discussions emerged on the possibility to build a hotel on one of the properties, as did discussions about commercial space. The possibility of building attached housing in the area were incorporated into the design alternatives, though did not receive very much attention during the meeting.
Town council members and members of the public seemed to lean toward a mixed-use of the two areas.
Town council's and public comments
While what development will take place at the properties is still in question, concerns were voiced about pulling pedestrian traffic from the southern part of town to developments located in an area identified as a vehicle oriented section of town in the town's master plan.
Ron Jones, managing partner for Cooper Creek Square, voiced concerns that a pedestrian oriented development at the properties would cause competition with the town's existing businesses and would be unfair to the businesses on the south end of town that have followed the town's master plan.
Would this development be competition or complimentary to the town's existing businesses? Jones asked.
Chris Seemann, a town council member, discussed Grand Park's plan to develop a pedestrian oriented shopping village across the highway from the Sitzmark properties and discussed the possibility of connecting their planned pedestrian marketplace to one at the Sitzmark properties.
"It's an exciting project, and I think it will be good for all of us," Seemann said during the meeting.
Jimmy Lahrman, a town council member, said that any development should feed off of and help contribute to the town's existing businesses.
Lahrman also gave praise to the town for moving forward with the purchase of these properties. The purchase of these properties "gave us the opportunity to start this process today rather than five years from now," Lahrman said.
Another town council member, Katie Riemenschneider, discussed her support of a civic center at the locations and the possibility to construct some form of a transportation hub at the location.
Members of the audience also voiced support for and discussed the need for some form of public transportation in the Fraser Valley, though how the task of implementing a public transportation system could be tackled was unclear.
The open house provided the design firm with a tremendous amount of feedback concerning what the town's residents and council members believed were needed amenities, according to Van Meter.
"Whatever happens at that north gateway has to benefit the town as a whole," he said.
The next step in the process will be for the design firm to consider all of the suggestions presented during the open house and to "mash all of the concepts into the first preliminary design."
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334