Orlando's historic Lucerne Towers in SoDo to get facelift

Orlando's historic Lucerne Towers in SoDo to get facelift
The longtime owners of Lucerne Towers in SoDo are planning to give the 58-year-old apartment building a fresh new look that highlights the original mid-century modern archetecture. (Gale Associates)

One of Orlando's most distinctive Mid-Century Modern apartment buildings is primed for a renovation that would highlight its unique period architecture.

The Wetenhall family, which has owned Lucerne Towers in the SoDo neighborhood since 1969, is seeking approval from Orlando's Appearance Review Board for the project. The 9-story, 151-unit apartment tower that overlooks Lake Lucerne was built by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1961.


"It's an iconic building in a great location that's getting facelift," owner Robert Wetenhall Jr. told GrowthSpotter. "This is the most significant upgrade since the building was built."

The property abuts the $75 million Novel Lucerne mixed-use building, which was developed by Crescent Communities and hosts the downtown area's first Earth Fare grocer.

Wetenhall enlisted Gale Associates for the renovation design, which includes replacement of the roof, windows and doors, stucco repair and a trendy new color palette. Gomez Construction is the GC.

"We wanted to really take the building to the next level," Wetenhall said. "The goal is both to seal the building's envelope and provide a more fresh and contemporary look, while highlighting its Mid-Century Modern heritage."

Lucerne Towers is one of several Orlando-area apartment buildings designed by noted architect Ernest Rapp, who worked in New York before moving in 1956 to Orlando and gaining a following for his home designs in College Park. Here his buildings also ranged from the State Office Building to the Imperial House restaurant in Winter Park.

As Rapp’s 2008 obituary noted, he began specializing in affordable housing for older people in the 1960s. He also designed Orlando's Kinneret Apartments,  Magnolia Towers, Orlando Central Towers, Baptist Towers and Calvary Towers.

Now Wetenhall is hoping the renovations will attract young professionals and college students. "UCF is coming downtown, so there will be continued growth in the Central Business District, and we think we have a great residential solution," he said.

The renovations also include substantial renovations to the building's mechanical, electrial and plumbing equipment, as well as new HV/AC handlers. It's all part of the multi-year improvement plan for the property that begins with the exterior and MEP work. The interior spaces and apartments would be upgraded over time.

Wetenhall said the goal is to complete this first phase by the end of the year. He declined to reveal the project budget.

The ARB's April meeting is cancelled, so the application could be heard in May.

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