Manhattan-based developer Property Markets Group (PMG) has continued to evolve its design for a proposed three-tower residential project in downtown Orlando, and heads into a city architecture review hearing this week with staff support of its latest changes.
GrowthSpotter first reported on the company's master plan filing back in late March for downtown's largest mixed-use multifamily project ever proposed on one parcel, with what is now 889 apartments across three phased towers and 41,000 square feet of retail-commercial proposed at 434 N. Orange Ave.
Still in a design development phase for the project, PMG is seeking approval from Orlando's Appearance Review Board on Aug. 16 for the project's Phase 1 design only, which is for a 17-story tower with 262 apartments, 41,000 square feet of ground-floor retail/commercial, and 663 spaces in a nine-floor garage. Staff are recommending approval, based on a handful of conditions.
Dubbed "X Orlando" as part of PMG's new PMGX Living line of "social living community" developments, the Orange Avenue property would be the largest residential project in downtown Orlando by far if fully completed.
Following an ARB courtesy review in April and extensive discussion at the Municipal Planning Board's May hearing for the project's master plan, PMG and its design team -- which includes Kimley-Horn as civil engineer, Baker Barrios as local architect of record and California-based Berkelhamer as design architect -- have made numerous changes to the X Orlando towers' design in response to staff requests.
"ARB staff appreciates the development team's strident effort and progress over the past few months," staff wrote in their latest review. "The design of the building, especially Phase One, has made great progress since the Courtesy Review."
On the building's east side facing N. Orange Avenue, the center section façade has been pulled back to expose a vehicle drop-off area to the sky, and added a canopy feature to emphasize it as the primary entrance.
On the north façade, PMG has offered to use large vinyl art panels to screen exposed areas of the parking podium as an interim treatment for that side during Phases 1 and 2, until it is fully developed in Phase 3. Also, residential units have been added in Phase 3 to parking floors 2-9 on that side, and ground-level commercial space will now wrap to the north façade.
On the west façade, the developer met staff's request to include ground-floor commercial uses on that side facing Gertrude's Walk, and have residential units on floors 2-9 to cover the parking podium.
For its skyline architecture, city staff were critical of PMG's original design with "wings" on top of each tower, which they claimed were becoming an overused element in downtown Orlando's skyline.
The developer and its team have replaced those skyline wings with light boxes on top of the three towers. It also switched up the tower heights, making the second phase the tallest at 25 floors, while stepping downward on each side (Phase 1 at 17 floors, and Phase 3 at 24).
PMG's most unique design proposal in April was an extensive green "living wall" system over the X Orlando podium façades and towers. Staff supported the concept, but wanted alternatives drawn up that could be implemented before or after installation of a green wall system if it proves unsustainable.
The developer now has two alternative treatments that could replace the living walls. One is a "dichoric film" technology, which can be applied to glass or other surfaces to provide an artistic look that creates color shifts when viewed from different angles.
Staff like the options, but want to negotiate maintenance standards with PMG for the living walls to make sure they have mutually acceptable performance standards.
Officials with PMG did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
The X Orlando project's Framework Master Plan is still facing a formal petition made in June by owners of the adjacent Central Station on Orange apartments, arguing the project was violating an existing master plan from 2012 and would devalue their asset.
The city should decide after the Aug. 16 ARB meeting if the Central Station on Orange owner's appeal request will go to a hearing officer for review, or straight to City Council.