Winter Park stalls bowling alley purchase

- Winter Park is deciding to wait two more weeks to figure out just how to pay for the $2.9 million bowling alley which they agreed to purchase on Fairbanks Avenue near U.S. Highway 17-92. The city's Community Redevelopment Agency, a downtown taxing district, voted unanimously to contribute $1 million to the project, leaving $1.9 million left to fund.

Without Mayor Steve Leary at Monday's meeting, the Commission decided to delay the decision on how to pay for it, and then what to use it for. Commissioner Tom McMacken agrees with the recommendation of staff on where the money should come from to redevelop the property. "We do have a Parks Acquisition Fund, so we have dollars we have been setting aside over the years to do precisely this, to add park space like this. The second is our reserves."

More than $600,000 is in the park fund, so taxpayers would spend $1.3 million from reserves for the now demolished bowling alley. The property sits directly across the street from the southern end of Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Commissioner McMacken hopes to someday add this property to that park. "As a landscape architect, I am leaning towards park. You seldom get an opportunity to add this size of a piece of parcel on to a city park. So this is a once in a generational opportunity as far as I am concerned and I hope we can take advantage of it."

Vice Mayor Sarah Sprinkel also told us a park is an ideal use for the land. "All of us look to add to green space in the city of Winter Park and we always have."

Delaying the decision will also give city residents a better chance to weigh in on the topic. There will be a referendum on the very northern end of Martin Luther King Jr. Park in mid March. The city is asking residents whether or not they want to build a new library where the city's Civic Center currently stands.

Once voters answer that question, city planners will have a better idea about how to design the park if they choose to make it part of the park.

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