Orlando's Municipal Planning Board on Tuesday approved craft beer brewing and urban gardening; town home projects, and a new hotel at Millennia; a new Goodwill at Goldenrod, and rules to keep a rural area near Narcoossee Road from becoming too urban.
But those were secondary discussions compared to the biggest business of the day: Three downtown mixed-use towers that would significantly change the skyline of downtown. It was the first time in recent memory that three such skyline changers at once were on the agenda.
The last project on the list, City Centre on the shores of Lake Eola at 215 E Central Blvd., was the most controversial. It packed a City Hall chamber with at least 100 concerned residents, the majority affiliated with The Rosalind Club, a women's social organization whose 99-year-old headquarters would sit less than five feet away from the proposed 28-story structure tall enough at 333 feet to require FAA approval.
A building that tall and close would surely shade and dwarf the Rosalind Club, its members said and if there has to be construction they asked for provisions to protect their soon-to-be 100-year-old building from harm including debris from construction and keeping the development's kitchen from venting its smells at the club. They worried about traffic causing problems with access as well.
Club members said that the city was giving the developer a lot with the current plan, including 215 residential units, the number boosted from what would typically be allowed because the development includes some attributes the city rewards developers with extra density for, such as building a mixed-use building and contributing to public art.
Also, there were questions about a plan to allow the building to create a dining space in Eola Park in a leasing arrangement with the city that would permit the use of lake-front dining in return for some park maintenance and improvements in that area, including a water wall feature.
In the end, the Municipal Planning Board approved the overall plan but added a requirement to increase the transparency of the building to allow more light to pass through. The change requires the building's walls facing Lake Eola to be 30 percent transparent, matching requirements for street-facing walls. Above street level, at least 15 percent transparency is required on floors facing streets.
The plan will pass onto the City Council for vote in August.
Modera Central, at 150 E. Central Blvd, another mixed-use tower of 26 floors, 391 residential units and 26,500 square feet of commercial space was also approved on the site of the University Club. Mill Creek Residential, the developer, is providing space for the club in the new building.
The club's members said they had done a lot of research before choosing the developer, saying they were particular about the choice. "We are not going to take the money and run," one member told the board.
The Board approved the plan with the condition that the parking garage entrances and exits for the residents and the University Club members not be separate so all garage users could use the exit on two streets rather than just one.
While city planners had praised the design of Modera, which, fitting its name, is quite contemporary with a lime-green "crown" at its top, some audience members were less enthralled. One said it was an eyesore on Lake Eola. Another said it resembled something from Soviet Russia.
Orlando Central, at 110 Jefferson St., the third mixed-use tower, was also approved. The HHH Reilly Fund LLC developer is planning to build 450 residential units with a 478-space detached parking garage and 13,464 square feet of ground-floor commercial.
In other actions the Board approved with little or no comment:
--A pair of Parramore entrepreneurs gained permission to open a craft beer brewery called Broken Cauldren with a tasting room on 1016 W. Church St.
--A self-proclaimed urban farmer and healthy food advocate cemented a deal to plant a garden on a vacant city lot at 626 W. South St. with the intention of providing healthy food, plus lessons on how to grow it yourself in an area he dubbed a "food desert."
--An AC hotel and Residence Inn was approved at 5403 Millennia Lakes Boulevard. The project includes two six-story adjoined hotels with 254 rooms.
-- RodneyTownhomes was approved for a .45-acre site at 4460 S. Lake Orlando Parkway in the Rosemont neighborhood.
--Arya Townhomes was approved for four townhomes at 513 Peachtree Road.
--Approved some amendments to the city's growth management plan to add rules to keep the Narcoossee Road/ Lake Whippoorwill area's rural character if annexed into the city.
All the Board's decisions will be passed onto the City Council who will have final approval in August.
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