Orlando staff recommends hybrid design with living wall for X Orlando tower

Orlando's Appearance Review Board (ARB) staff wants yet another design change for the proposed X Orlando as the developer seeks approval for the next two phases of the largest residential building ever proposed for downtown Orlando.

The city's ARB and Municipal Planning Board have already approved 17-story Phase 1 of the tri-tower complex by Manhattan developer Property Markets Group (PMG) at 434 N. Orange Ave. Both of those approvals have been appealed and will be heard by a special master later this month.

The ARB in September gave conditional approval of PMG's plan to incorporate a "living wall" of plants along the facade to add visual interest, with the caveat that it would be replaced with another material if the plants fail.

"While having concerns about the viability of the green wall system, ARB staff finds it to be unique, distinctive and does not want to discourage the green wall system if the developer and their consultants believe they can deliver a successful solution," staff wrote.

The board also voiced concerns over a plan to cover large sections of the exterior walls with dark gray corrugated metal panels. So at the board's request, PMG's design team provided elevations with other scenarios. Those included gray stucco exterior with and without the corrugated metal, with and without the living walls, and also with the Dichroic glass "fins" protruding from the walls to reflect light.

In their report, the staff called it "the largest, most comprehensive submittal ever received by ARB."  Now they're asking the developer to limit the scope of the living wall and eliminate the corrugated metal siding.

"At this stage in the design of the project, ARB staff has  determined that they can no longer be non-committal about the façade treatments," staff wrote. "In consultation with the Planning Official, the ARB Staff has determined they must make a specific recommendation of approval for the façade treatments. That recommendation is hybrid of the three applicant proposed options." 

The hybrid design maintains the living wall system, but only on the apartment balconies where it could easily be removed without major structural renovations. 

The exterior walls would be gray stucco with increased glazing to make the dark color palette appear more light and inviting and Dichroic glass panels. 

"Staff likes the unique effects the lit Dichroic glass will have on the building at night and potentially, during daylight as well," they wrote.

The board will consider all of the options, including the staff recommendation on Thursday.  

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