Number of parking spots to grow at Winter Park Trader Joe’s

Parking will grow by 10 spaces, possibly more after the Commission reversed a ruling.

Parking will grow by 10 spaces, possibly more after the Commission reversed a ruling.

Tim Freed

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Drivers circling outside Winter Park’s new Trader Joe’s location may see some relief from the current parking problems – though it’s only an extra 10 spaces for now.

Winter Park City Commissioners sought to stop the traffic artery-clogging parking woes at the Winter Park Lakeside development on Monday by giving Unicorp National Developments the green light to finish building a new Blue Cross/Blue Shield clinic, allowing construction vehicles to leave the area to free up parking.

The completion of the clinic would mean 36 additional parking spaces nearby, but only 10 of them would be open immediately due to the heavier construction taking roughly four more months, Winter Park Planning Director Jeff Briggs said.

Construction for the Blue Cross/Blue Shield clinic halted recently when the city revoked the developer’s certificate of occupancy due to a lack of off-site parking for employees. On Monday Unicorp offered a temporary solution: an unmarked, 28-car lot acquired from the Hillstone Restaurant just south of the Winter Park Lakeside to make up for 21 required spaces.

It’s all an effort to get the building finished and free up the parking, Unicorp President Chuck Whittall said.

“We do have 36 spaces that are not being utilized right now [outside the clinic],” Whittall said. “We have about 13 construction vehicles daily there….We want to finish the interior so we can get construction traffic off the site.”

The Winter Park City Commission voted by a count of 3-2 to allow construction – but not occupancy – on the condition that Unicorp find a permanent solution to the parking shortage, as opposed to a temporary, unmarked lot.

Whittall said that permanent parking would be acquired when Unicorp’s potential deal for the Mt. Vernon Inn property closes later this year.

But City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel said she felt concern over residents having to cross U.S. Highway 17-92 to get from that property to the Lakeside plaza.

“I didn’t want people crossing 17-92 – to park and then walk across,” Sprinkel said. “That’s a danger…I don’t consider that a good permanent solution.”

Whittall assured that he planned to have a traffic calming study conducted on the intersection to see how to make crossing the street safer.

City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who voted against granting permission along with Mayor Ken Bradley, said she feared that moving forward without a permanent solution would trap the City Commission down the road.

“Every time we make a temporary decision, we move further down the road to Blue Cross/Blue Shield investing quite a bit of money into moving things to the interior of the building,” Cooper said. “I’m assuming we’re talking MRIs and X-Ray equipment…The more further down the road that we go, the more we are boxing ourselves in to having to approve whatever solution.”

Whittall said Unicorp will move their permanent parking solution another step forward within the next two weeks, submitting a development proposal for the Mt. Vernon Inn property to the city’s planning and zoning board.