East End District Arises

East End’s midcentury modern integrity makes it a desirable place to live.
The street markets and rich sidewalk life attracts creatives, thinkers, and doers.
Building with the East End’s bohemian character, these residences capture
the spirit of the postwar period with two models:
–The Jack, an affordable residence gently inserted into the neighborhood
–The Al, a slightly larger home slipped into a narrow lot between homes.
For more on this exciting new development, go to the East End Project Page.

Dreams of Escape

Opening January 1, 2016

Stardust Video and Coffee

1842 E. Winter Park Road

Orlando, FL 32803

Soviet Air

Opening January 1, 2016

Stardust Video and Coffee

1842 E. Winter Park Road

Orlando, FL  32803

Dreams of escape

Chaos can have a healing character

if it is coupled with the idea of open movement

to channel the warmth of chaotic energy into order or form.

-Joseph Beuys

Order and form are the two rails on which architecture rolls.  The newfound vigor of chaos derails architecture into black, deadend tunnels choked with soot, illimitable delays, and colorful desultory wrecks.  At the end of nearly every day, after observing or managing chaos, I depart the scene with nothing to show for it.  Nothing, except for small drawings.

Chaos is here to stay:  meaningless bright adversity, overbearing dull beige banality, and the profligate urgent shrillness of spendthrift capitalism all create absurdity and waste beyond even Kafka’s wildest imagination.   Arising out of this disorder come small bubbles of order, moments when one hand, temporarily unoccupied by the keyboard or the legal pad, can briefly roam free and make a connection between things that are separated.

This installation is a bank, a place where I deposit my dreams of escape.  I participate in the warmth of chaotic energy without emotion; instead I invest emotions into small things, the open movement of my hand creating these dreams of escape. Meanwhile, order and form get restored.

Few, if any, of these are actual planes.  They are dreams of aircraft, sketched during chaos; they are ways out.  Tiny, quickly scratched blossoms of highly ordered objects, droplets of comfort and calm.

Left side Right side
F6F Hellcat model in cement

Bomber engine

fighter nose

British twin engine fighter

early jet air scoop

flying boat

Russian helicopter

Comically fat Russian jet

Slightly comical American fighter

Russian fighter flying overhead

Bomber

BAC Caravelle ghost

F-16 ghost

F-117 ghost

Fighter, probably Russian

Sub patrol aircraft

Supersonic airliner

Navy fighter caught with propeller

Bomber on crumpled paper

Dive bomber far away

Russian transporter tail

Eastern European jet trainer

Russian jet of some kind

Early jet fighter coming at  you

The one and only B-58

Two-engine passenger plane

Bit of a carrier-based navy plane

Bomber

Bomber engine

Early Swedish jet trainer studies

Another eastern European jet trainer

Kind of a British fighter-bomber

Yet another eastern European jet trainer

Russian turboprop bomber with Russian jet transporter flying in formation

A MiG

An air intake

Another MiG

P-38s over a house

Possibly a Tupolev under the drawing

Richard Reep
Winter Park, Florida

2016

MiG-3
MiG-15

Historic District Ordinance in Winter Park passes

Park Avenue (courtesy Winter Park Public Library archives)

Late in the evening of November 9, the Winter Park City Commission passed 3-2 a revision to the Historic Preservation Ordinance.  This revision strengthens the ordinance and brings Winter Park into the orbit of cities with reasonable protection of their historic resources.  The City Commission did the right thing.

No small controversy surrounded the vote.  Heritage tourism, a sense of place, and nicely rising property values will be part of the future – what’s not to like?
Apparently, a lot.  A huge campaign was mounted against the ordinance revision, putting out pictures of houses wrapped in chains, and merrily smearing supporters on facebook.
As it turned out, the campaign was stirred by a small private interest group that was ultimately unable to sway the majority of the commission away from approval.
Winter Park already has an historic preservation ordinance.  Its weaknesses, however, were identified several years ago.  The Historic Preservation Board, a volunteer group, has few qualifications for service.  Demolition permits can be granted without Board review, so historic resources may be removed without any documentation.  And, most importantly, the requirement to form an historic district was 67% approval by all homeowners involved, a supermajority.
One aspect of the ordinance wasn’t passed.  No qualifications are needed to serve on the Historic Preservation Board, making this board open to “stacking” by special interests, and making Winter Park an outlier amongst cities that operate such bodies.
Delaying demolition permits by 30 days will give the city staff time to assess a home’s historic value, was unpopular and scrapped in the final ordinance. The language of Monday night’s ordinance may need some more cleanup in this respect, but the essence of the delay was preserved.  This delay only applies to structures on the city’s historic resources listing.  Delay allows documentation of a structure, even if it succumbs to the bulldozer’s cruel blade, and sometimes gives the home’s owner a time to reflect.
That wasn’t what the shouting was all about, however.  Reducing the supermajority of homes to a simple majority caused an outcry.  If historic districts can form more easily, a few people wrongly feared the restrictions as a reduction in property rights.  Spectres of design police were waved, warning of things that never happen in historic districts – homes wasting away, realtors driving Volkswagen Rabbits….  Residents, stirred by these concerns, spoke to the City Commission about their doorknobs and paint colors.  Surely these would still be OK?
The Mayor and Commission were overcome by common sense, a refreshing change in today’s regrettably polarized, shrill political climate.  This ordinance won’t constraint property rights any more than building codes or the current ordinance does. Instead, the ordinance merely ensures democracy in the formation of historic districts, a good thing in a town that values history like  Winter Park.  Like Jackie Onassis once said about historic structures, “they belong to everybody.”
The City Commission made the correct move.  Clearing the way for historic districts to blossom will increase tourism to Winter Park and protect property values in a city that already enjoys high rates of return.  Our children and grandchildren may just have something from the past left over to point to.  Bulldozers can still roll freely through the streets, and people who want to live in historic neighborhoods will cluster there.  People who want to live in new homes will cluster in new developments like Windsong or Baldwin Park.  Everyone wins.
Unfortunately, the ordinance must still survive intact after two more public readings.  At each public reading, it is subject to further tweaks. One such tweak, snuck in at the very end, has already reduced its teeth.  A proposal by one commissioner was floated to make the minimum size of a district 12 contiguous homes.
On the surface, that seems reasonable.  The word contiguous, however, should be struck on the next reading.  Winter Park, a small municipality, is rich in small enclaves of historic structures, but it is going to be difficult to form a district out of 12 that actually all touch.  The current district of Virginia Heights may not even comply with this request.
So what the large print giveth, the fine print may taketh away…like a planet moving in retrograde, Winter Park’s compliance with national historic district standards seemed to move closer to the center, but with this one troubling addition, it may shift back out towards the darkness of individualistic space where so many of our social issues seem to shift.
It is important for the next two readings to remove the word “contiguous” and maintain the ordinance revisions just as they were specified over two years ago.  This will give Winter Parkers a chance to enjoy the quality of place that has come to be associated with their city, allow assets to appreciate, heritage tourism to expand, and keep the broadest possible benefits available to the largest number of people.

When density is destructive

Brick streets, mature old oaks, and a sense of history imbue Winter Park, Florida with a sense of place that is the envy of many small cities and towns. The tony Park Avenue brings shoppers and visitors, who soak up its ambience and enjoy the street life of this quaint southern town. On the east side, bounded by blue lakes, lie gentrified historical mansions, while the west side is a neighborhood of smaller, affordable homes with multigenerational Winter Parkers. This community of little single-family homes is now endangered by developers that are gobbling up parcels two and three at a time, increasing the density threefold, and squeezing out residents in a new, “zoning for dollars” economic climate.

Brick streets, mature old oaks, and a sense of history imbue Winter Park, Florida with a sense of place that is the envy of many small cities and towns.  The tony Park Avenue brings shoppers and visitors, who soak up its ambience and enjoy the street life of this quaint southern town.  On the east side, bounded by blue lakes, lie gentrified historical mansions, while the west side is a neighborhood of smaller, affordable homes with multigenerational Winter Parkers.  This community of little single-family homes is now endangered by developers that are gobbling up parcels two and three at a time, increasing the density threefold, and squeezing out residents in a new, “zoning for dollars” economic climate.

Affluence and affordability have always maintained an uneasy truce, and the balance between them has historically been protected by cities through planning policies and an understanding that the mission of a city is to be workable for all of its residents, not just the wealthiest.  Unfortunately, this balance tilts when the density imperative drives land values up, and tips the scales in favor of half-million dollar townhomes. High density has become fashionable in Winter Park these days, as it has in many cities, and there are some benefits to this new style.  The costs?  Well, those will be counted later.

Density’s benefits look great on paper: a higher tax base, expensive new housing, walkable urbanity.  When implemented well, these can make for positive changes.  Advocates preach careful, sensitive ways to develop: don’t smash large and small buildings together; don’t mix uses on a street, and ramp up from low to high density across a gradient of a block or two.  Advocates also preach a consensus-building process to avoid neighborhood clashes over growth issues.  In places where this has happened, like Coral Gables in Miami, the story has mostly been a good one.

The west side of Winter Park, with its cottages and modest residences for families, dates back to the 1920s.  Within the neighborhood are many small churches to which residents walk on Sundays.  Playgrounds, parks, and a community center characterize the West Side’s tree-shaded streets, and its proximity to the downtown area means jobs for many of its residents.  For the last ninety years, the city has evolved around this neighborhood, and many families go back several generations.  Its diversity includes many African American families, mixing with whites. It carved out a niche in the city.

Today, the West Side is an older and less affluent neighborhood that happens to be close to a desirable address.  The West Siders have already chosen their preferred building pattern and rhythm, infilling their blocks with new homes of similar size and scale, enlarging the tax base.  They already live a walkable urban lifestyle, use mass transit, and evolve with slow and organic growth.  In short, every urbanist’s dream.

Like many cities that have a working class enclave that butts up against a newly trendy one, Winter Park has encouraged dense, mixed-use development, while nominally protecting its existing neighborhoods.  And this is where the density equation seems to fall apart.  The residents who leave the area will no longer participate in the economy of Winter Park.    The new residents of half-million-dollar townhomes probably won’t ride the bus, walk to the churches, or otherwise activate the local streets.  So a natural piece of the city is lost forever. Urbanism, for all that has been written in favor of this ideology, is diminished for the sake of density.

West Siders protested in City Hall, asking the city not to upzone their neighborhood.  While City Hall nodded to its citizens, it had already quietly allowed upzoning to take place, taking advantage of tired homeowners who decided to cash in. Half-million-dollar townhomes, which could be built in other areas, are instead being built here, to take advantage of low land values.  Parking garages and midrise apartments now cast shadows on the adjacent small houses.  Land values may rise on parcels with new townhomes and midrise apartments, but immediately next door, the remaining adjacent little one-story cottage becomes particularly undesirable.  Its land value gets depressed, with its owner’s only hope to sell off to a high-density developer.  Step by step high density becomes more and more inevitable as the only solution left.

The market forces at work in Winter Park have played out elsewhere across the country, with old neighborhoods eroding.  This time around, with density all but institutionalized as the only acceptable way to grow, the deck seems to be stacked against entrenched locals.  Cities are re-writing their development codes in favor of shiny new mid-rises and high-rises, ignoring existing residents who won’t be missed till they are gone.

When the market, an amoral institution without sentiment, threatens neighborhoods, it is the job of City Hall to provide a hedge that ensures balance and fair play.  But citizens have to shout over the money in order to be heard, so local groups like the Friends of Casa Feliz have stepped in on their side.  If “zoning for dollars” can work against this section of the city, groups fear, then no one is safe, and people are reminding City Hall of its duty as a guardian of its residents.

Density, on its own, is neither a good nor a bad thing.  It can make a city more efficient and connected, and proponents tout its reputed health benefits and contribution to a thriving social life.  When, in the process of allowing density, a city destroys the very values that it is supposed to promote, then the city ends up cannibalizing its neighborhoods for little benefit other than the one-time gain that the developers will realize from the sale of these newly built products.  Income streams are put into mortgage-holders’ pockets, and, bit by bit, one more highly localized economy disintegrates.

City halls, so obsessed with petty regulations, would do well to recall their basic functions as protectors of their residents.  If there were a “back to basics” movement for government, many ordinances written to benefit the few would be shed, and there would be a refocus of attention back to the public good.  The current infatuation with density, like many fashionable ideas, may come and go, but if a multigenerational neighborhood goes, it won’t be replaced in our lifetime.

This article first appeared in The New Geography.