I-Drive District stakeholders revisit 2040 Vision Plan, talk priorities w/planners

This map shows the eight sub-districts established in the I-Drive 2040 Vision Plan and overlay district code, which covers roughly 3,500 acres.
This map shows the eight sub-districts established in the I-Drive 2040 Vision Plan and overlay district code, which covers roughly 3,500 acres. (Orange County)

Seventeen months after Orange County adopted a new I-Drive District Overlay Code to guide urban redevelopment along the International Drive tourism corridor, stakeholders reconvened Friday to recap progress and focus county planners on what to do next.

Planners held an update meeting for the I-Drive 2040 Vision Steering Review Group, which last met in June 2016. The I-Drive District Overlay Code was later adopted by county commissioners in February 2017.


That overlay code established seven types of transect zones for the 3,500-acre study area that designate types of development and density. A transit-oriented and corridor-based Regulating Plan will serve as zoning, and nearly every piece of real estate in the district will be guided toward interconnectivity and denser redevelopment.

Insight on when the new code for a 3,500-acre study area around International Drive takes effect, and concessions land owners earned in recent months.

It's all meant to give predictability to market investors on what direction the I-Drive District is evolving toward.


For the immediate future, the group told planners Friday to proceed with code changes to banner sign standards in the tourism corridor. This would remove the annual limit of times (4) a hotel could hang banner signs on its walls. An ordinance update could go before the Board of County Commissioners in August or September.

They also green-lit continued talks for updating standards on the separation of liquor stores, known as "package sale vendors."

Today a new vendor can't set up within 5,000 feet of a pre-existing competitor. The proposed change reduces that to 3,500 feet, but limits the entire I-Drive District to no more than four such liquor stores, and only one in a given sub-district. The topic will be discussed at BCC on July 10.

In the short-term, the group approved county planners to pursue changes to the Overlay Code that clean up or add detail to a few sections of the rule book.

Details on the "big elephant in the room" at Friday's final I-Drive Vision Plan meeting, and what undeveloped land lies along upcoming road projects.

Those include creating a new landscaping section, refining prohibited uses, adding standards for where food trucks can set up, establishing a cap for bicycle parking spaces in new development, and creating standards for how digital media could be projected as public art on buildings.

Dynamic lighting and video art have become increasingly popular in big cities around the world. County planners want to better define this in the Overlay Code now so it doesn't get restricted in the future. Currently, the county's signage code doesn't allow such projections on a building.

And for the long-term, they approved the continued study by planners of how residential can be better integrated into multiple areas of the I-Drive District. This has proven key to the renaissance of decaying urban centers across Florida, including downtown Orlando, said Planning Manager Alberto Vargas.

"When we talked about the goals of how this district should grow over the next 22 years, the focus has been a diverse amount of uses and integrating those uses," he told GrowthSpotter. "What triggered the renaissance of urban centers in the past decade or more is introducing residential to the mix of uses, which brings more local involvement and pride into the growth of those areas.

"So we'll be looking at how to begin to introduce residential flexibility throughout the district," he continued. "That's a more in-depth dialogue we'll have to look at with the Comprehensive Plan, to make sure it fits within the greater vision of Orange County."

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They also discussed four key Interstate 4 interchanges, and how iconic architecture or lighting could be incorporated there. Those are Sand Lake Road, the S.R. 528 Expressway, Central Florida Parkway and Daryl Carter Parkway.

Those interchanges could be defined by landmarks, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, or artistic bridge additions, colorful structures, landscaping and lighting.

Planning staff see Sand Lake Road as the most important entry to the I-Drive District. The Florida Department of Transportation has allocated $11.5 million toward design enhancements for those four tourism corridor interchanges.

However, that money can't be used for annual maintenance costs. So the key question for I-Drive stakeholders is where they're willing to pull funds for the annual care of such aesthetic features.

Vargas highlighted for the audience that if tourism growth over the past two years is any indicator, the I-Drive District may need to move faster with its investment.

Between 2016 and 2018, annual visitors to Orlando are up 9 million (72 million total), delegates to the Orange County Convention Center have increased 0.5 million (1.5 million overall), and passengers through Orlando International Airport are up 4 million (42 millon total), the latter possibly warranting renewed interest in high-speed rail between I-Drive and the airport.

Insight for architecture and design specialists on the scope of renovation work ahead in this public contract for the Orange County Convention Center.

A key compromise in the final version of the I-Drive District Code adopted in 2017 is that currently approved Planned Development projects (PDs) will be exempt from the I-Drive District Regulating Plan for three years, through Feb. 7, 2020.

Developers will have until that date to submit new Development Plans or Preliminary Subdivision Plans that won't have to conform to the I-Drive District Code, as long as their applications don't necessitate a substantial change to the PD.

This concession by the county gives developers a lengthy window to keep operating under the current rules, with construction allowed to start up to two years after a DP or PSP is approved, potentially as late as February 2023.

A majority of the developed and vacant land in the 21-square-mile overlay zone is currently zoned by PD, so most property owners will have this flexibility.

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.