Winter Park businesses at risk of being purchased for Fairbanks Ave. expansion

Anyone who’s driven through Winter Park knows Fairbanks Avenue can be a mess. There are a lot of lights and almost always traffic.

Now, Winter Park is trying to fix it, but it would mean messing with a bunch of businesses, some of which are a staple in this community. It wasn’t until recently that Austin’s Coffee owner Jackie Oswalt-Moore learned her business might be in trouble.

"I didn’t know what to think or what to do or how to navigate. I couldn’t get my bearings because it was a huge gut punch," said Oswalt-Moore.

It’s not because of COVID, but because the City of Winter Park is looking to expand Fairbanks Ave. and make extra turning lanes at Denning Drive. To do it, they’re looking to purchase a strip of roughly 12 businesses so they can widen the road onto what would be their properties.

MORE NEWS: Third stimulus check -- Who is eligible for the money, and who isn't?

"One of the challenges is many of those businesses are so close to Fairbanks that you can’t add that lane without at least taking off the front of the building," said Winter Park City Manager Randy Knight.

Knight said the city still doesn’t know what it would do if it were to purchase these properties.

"It could be any combination of all of it being razed to a new development that incorporates some of those properties or some of them can stay."

At a commission meeting Wednesday, more than a dozen customers, friends, and employees of Austin’s Coffee spoke out against the plan, emphasizing the significance of the coffee shop and performance space.

"A lot of artists who come through Austin’s Coffee end up going on to be published, end up going on to bigger things," said Austin’s Coffee poetry open mic night host Arjun Govindan.

Oswalt-Moore is happy to see her community backing her.

"To take Austin’s out of Winter Park would be literally like cutting a piece of your soul out."

Knight said the decision on whether to buy these properties should happen in the next 60 days. He said expanding Fairbanks Avenue is a project that will take years.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.