Just as they did on I-Drive, in Sodo and Audubon Park, Orlando city planners are crafting a vision plan they hope will serve as a catalyst for new investment and redevelopment of the Curry Ford Road corridor.
"It’s going to be interesting to see over the next 10 years or so,” Planning Director Elisabeth Dang said. “We’ve had a lot of redevelopment in other neighborhoods, and it’s our expectation that this area will probably be next.”
The plan is a precursor to a zoning overlay district that would extend from Cloverlawn Avenue, a few blocks west of Bumby Avenue, to Dixie Belle Drive, just shy of Semoran Boulevard. It identifies key parcels and assemblages that are ripe for redevelopment, and lays out a two different scenarios with varying levels of intensity along the main highway corridor and extending a quarter-mile in each direction.
The plan also makes recommendations for roadway enhancements, such as landscaping and street trees, additional crosswalks, bike lanes and even utility line burial.
Dang told GrowthSpotter the vision plan is meant to direct more intensive development to one of the city’s most established east-west corridors with easy access to downtown.
“The idea is to show these new possibilities," she said. "It’s not a requirement that anybody ever build any of this. It’s just kind of sparking the imagination and thinking about different ways that a neighborhood could be developed,” she said.
One goal of the plan is to support the eclectic, small businesses along the corridor, particularly in nodes such as the Hourglass District, where Curry Ford intersects with Bumby. Rehabilitation and repurposing of the mid-century buildings in that district protects the character of the neighborhood, and it’s just as important and new infill redevelopment.
“There’s a lot of local smaller businesses in the area, which we think is great,” Dang said. “And so those smaller businesses sometimes attract the attention of the bigger chain stores and things like that. So before we get our first Mills Park style project, it’s important to do this visioning process.”
Giovanni Fernandez and Elise Sabatino, the husband-wife duo behind the Hourglass District, said the plan honors the investment they’ve already made in the neighborhood. It recognizes the added value of commercial rehabilitation and balances it with new construction.
“This vision plan allows you to have both. Everything has its place,” Fernandez said, noting that businesses in Hourglass District cater to the surrounding Bungalow neighborhoods. “New development has to happen, but Orlando is a community that appreciates local businesses. So it’s important to carve out some spots we could grow into.”
The plan identifies the northwest corner of Bumby and Curry Ford as a potential infill redevelopment site. The four parcels, three of which are vacant, comprise about 1.3 acres and could support up to 39 apartments and/or 28,000 square feet of commercial space under the current zoning.
“We’ve certainly looked at that corner and its potential for residential,” Fernandez said, noting that their company, National Real Estate, paid to extend the city sewer lines to that intersection, which makes the higher density possible. “Our goal has always been to improve the community and add value where we could. It’s important to lay those foundational pieces.”
The Conway-Curry Ford commercial node could support much more intensive development. The plan identifies the 25-acre Conway Plaza shopping center as a potential redevelopment site that could support high-density housing and retail uses.
Slide the bar to the left to see a redevelopment scenario for Conway Plaza with 5-story mixed-use buildings. New 2- and 3-story commercial buildings would be built on the north side of Curry Ford Road, with parking in the rear and walls to provide buffering for the adjacent single-family homes. The crosswalk is well-defined, and the sidewalks are lined with shade trees.
Dang said the Publix-anchored plaza makes an ideal infill redevelopment site because it has so much surface parking. The added population could support something like Mills Park or Crescent Lucerne, which combines multifamily with a smaller footprint grocery store.
“And we know that retail is changing quickly,” she said. “Right now, people are doing more online orders and delivery and that sort of thing... So that’s one of the reasons we really want to have some redevelopment in the area is because a lot of these older shopping centers may be obsolete in the next 10 years, and new types of retail may be more popular.”
Debra Ray, executive director of the new Curry Ford West Main Street Organization, said the proposed road and streetscape improvements are desperately needed in the corridor, where crosswalks are often a half-mile apart.
“One of the things that really interested me was the recommendation for improving the crosswalks,” Ray said. “Those type of improvements, like adding more trees and making the sidewalks ADA compliant, it makes us more walkable and more bike-friendly.”
Implementing the city’s “complete streets” program will be more costly, especially at major intersections like Conway ($11.6 million) and Bumby ($5.8 million.)
“With the road corridors, we really want to leave ourselves options, because none of this has been engineered, and sometimes one option is more feasible or affordable than the other option," Dang said.
SM&E has served as the planning consultant for the city, along with Toole Design Group, Quality Counts and Wyche & Associates.
The plan will be presented to the city’s Municipal Planning Board in September and then go back to staff to draft the proposed overlay zoning district, Dang said.