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Thorough redesign pitched for 61-year-old retail/office building on N. Magnolia

The current exterior architecture and design of 223-231 N. Magnolia Avenue
The current exterior architecture and design of 223-231 N. Magnolia Avenue (City of Orlando)

The owner of one of Downtown Orlando's oldest retail/office buildings on N. Magnolia Avenue is seeking city permission to thoroughly renovate the property's frontage, proposing second-floor balconies and new floor-to-ceiling windows to feature ground-floor tenants.

Built in 1954, the two-story building at 223-231 N. Magnolia Ave. lies directly east of downtown's U.S. Post Office. Set on 0.17 acres, the property features 7,518 square feet of occupable area, with small office spaces on the second floor and three retail outlets on the first, which include Mandy's Pastry Shoppe and The Neighborhood Eatery.

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Stephen J. Wolk and family bought the property in 1986 for $600,000. Wolk pursued similar facade upgrades in 2004 and 2007 that were approved by the city's Downtown Development Review Committee, but the economic recession halted those plans, and the DRC approval eventually expired.

An architect's rendering for the potential redesign at 227 N. Magnolia Ave. in downtown Orlando.
An architect's rendering for the potential redesign at 227 N. Magnolia Ave. in downtown Orlando. (Jerome Uhran)

Wolk is now proposing to knock out the front or west wall of the building and add three balconies on the second floor, then re-enclose the front of the ground floor with glass and millwork. New windows would also be cut in on the north and south sides of the building wehre there are currently no windows, and expand windows on the rear/east wall

"There comes a point for any property where you have to shoulder the load and completely renovate the building," Wolk told GrowthSpotter on Monday. He projects the renovation project to cost around $300,000.

The building has a few systemic design problems that stem from renovations done decades ago, which cut out the original open frontage on the building, and put in "gratuitous amounts of concrete" so storefronts now have limited window space, Wolk said.

"That ground floor is all retail, and retailers like visibility," he said. "Also, the interior offices always suffered from a lack of daylight. So the renovation would give each office some windows of their own."

Orlando's Appearance Review Board heard Wolk's petition on Feb. 18, and requested additional design details and information on the project, while deferring a decision on the case to a future date.

One of the issues ARB pointed out was that a proposed multi-pane French door access to balconies on the second floor may be contradictory to the mid-century modern contemporary look of the building's original design, which board members perceive as the ideal focus for a renovation.

"I felt they were correct at ARB, and they're suggesting these things so you can make your building better and stronger from an architectural perspective," said Jerome Uhran, an architect on the project for Wolk.

Floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor would feature a butt-jointed glass window system on the building's front, which is created by joining two glass panels in a corner without the need of a frame.

Uhran said that style of window pane jointing isn't a mid-century 1960s concept, but is modern, and if carried through across the whole building would offer a nice design consistency.

Uhran expects he and Wolk will sit with members of the ARB again in the coming weeks to identify which aspects of the original concept art aren't consistent, and make substitutions they would approve.

"Then both sides could happily move forward on this," Uhran said. "We'd then submit plans to the city's building department for renovation work."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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