New study shows the potential along West Fairbanks Avenue

A new study by two students at the University of Central Florida shows there is plenty of potential for economic growth on Fairbanks Avenue.

The first opportunity that motorists traveling east on Interstate 4 have to enter Winter Park, Amy Bradbury noted, is from he exit at Fairbanks Avenue. That means this commercial corridor is often the first impression that people have of the city when they come here.

“Fairbanks Avenue is an entry point into Winter Park from I-4,” Bradlbury said. 

But what they see, added Emily Hanna, is a “hodge podge of different uses,” that don’t serve to create the feeling of a roadway like Park Avenue, that pedestrians would want to spend time walking on.

“There isn’t necessarily the right nix of uses to create an attractive and walkable environment,” Hanna said.

But with a different vision, she added, Winter Park has the potential to significantly transform Fairbanks Avenue.

Hanna and Bradbury at students in the Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Central Florida. They just completed a project for the city called West Fairbanks Avenue: A Corridor Study, which had been commissioned through the city’s Economic Development/Community Redevelopment Agency. On Tuesday, Hanna and Bradbury reviewed their findings with the city’s Economic Development Advisory Board, which held its monthly meeting at City Hall.

“We had asked them to look at the Fairbanks corridor for us,” noted Marc Reicher, the chairman of the advisory board, since it is one that could be ripe for more economic development.

Hanna said it remains an underutilized corridor, one that already has a good number of businesses, but she added that the mix of uses – from restaurants to auto repair shops and gas stations – doesn’t attract much pedestrian traffic.

“Along the corridor we have a lot of commercial property,” she said. “it’s a real mix of uses.”

But there are opportunities for the city to change that, she added.

“There is potential for the corridor,” Hanna said. “We see the walkability of this corridor.”

There are 87 parcels along West Fairbanks Avenue today, Hanna noted, that provide 439,527 existing building square footage.  

Many of those businesses, she added, are smaller than the density allows. Many of them are on Fairbanks Avenue, but in a section that is outside the city limits and a part of unincorporated Orange County. 

However, Winter Park could annex that property, and then raise he building intensity level to attract new companies.

“If you increase the intensity along Fairbanks, you can increase the taxable value to over $40 million,” Hanna said.

“It would be benefitting Orange County as well,” Bradbury said, “because it is more costly for them to provides services to this area.”

Dori Stone, Winter Park’s economic development director, said one challenge is that Fairbanks Avenue is also supervised by the Florida Department of Transportation, so the city would need to coordinate with the state as well.

“It’s also an FDOT road,” Stone said. “I like this (report). This is a long-term view. But as a DOT road, it gets trickier.”

Still, she added, “This is a great picture for visioning for Fairbanks. I think this is a great opportunity for us to put this on our task list.”

The Economic Development Advisory Board has been studying ways to improve commercial growth and economic development on several of the city’s commercial corridors, including Lee Road, U.S. 17/92, and Aloma Avenue.

 

mwfreeman@sun-sentinel.com or 407-420-5290.