City staff, board wowed by new design for Zoi House skyscraper in downtown Orlando

Exciting. Gracious. Magnetic. 

Those were just a few of the words members of Orlando's Appearance Review Board (ARB) and staff used to describe the latest design for the 41-story Zoi House, proposed to be the city's tallest skyscraper.

Miami-based MEC Development Associates  and their team from Baker Barrios refined the original design with a gentle, sweeping curve at the most prominent corner -- N. Orange Avenue and E. Livingston Street. 

Wayne Dunkelberger, Baker Barrios's creative director, said he achieved the effect on the upper levels of the tower largely through the placement of balconies. "The balconies are the same size, they just start to move back in their expression," he said.

ARB Member Margaret Brock lauded the approach and suggested the architect mimic the curves on parking garage section by scoring the concrete to create a similar line. "I think those curves you're introducing are just gracious and beautiful," she said. "That corner is a lucky corner. It's a great start."

ARB Planner Doug Metzger suggested extending the curve above the roofline, and possibly placing a spire on top of the building.

"We think the arcs need to influence what happens on the skyline architecture," he said. "Give it something a little more distinctive than what we’re getting across the street at (X Orlando)."

He also asked the architect to "do a little bit of upgrading" on the eastern facade of the building so it doesn't pale in comparison to the Orange Avenue facade.

Dunkelberger agreed to make further refinements, as the ARB suggested, including changing the color of the glass on the balconies to accentuate the curve and add more pizzazz to the roofline and western corners. 

"As the tallest building, you need it to say something," he said. "I'll work on the top."

The Zoi House would be constructed on a 1-acre lot directly across from the Bank of America Financial Center and next to the Orange County Courthouse.

The Master Plan goes to Municipal Planning Board next week, and the city staff is recommending conditional approval with a new estimated height of 475 feet.

For context, SunTrust Center is currently the city's tallest building, at 441 feet. The BoA tower is 409 feet, and the courthouse is 416 feet. 

In the staff report, planners had no issues with the tower's height, as long as the developer doesn't exceed 41 stories and gets FAA approval.

The planners also recommended approval of the density bonus that would the developer to build 300 apartments, along with ground-floor retail on Orange and Livingston and up to 140,000 square feet of office/commercial uses. 

The  site is currently home to Fratelli's Restaurant/Parallel night club and the former Acquittal Cafe. Because the developer is seeking a density bonus, they must allocate 1 percent of the project's budget toward public art. That could be sculptures, statues or murals.

"This public art may be in any physical and lasting media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the public realm, accessible to all," the report reads.

Other conditions in the staff report outline the steps the developer must take to create a roof-terrace on top of the 9-story parking garage.  

The MP calls for 25 floors of residential use, along with ground-floor retail and six floors of boutique office-commercial space.  

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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