The sky is the limit for future growth and redevelopment of the Orange County Convention Center property, but concentrated and vertical parking solutions may be key to maximizing the campus acreage going forward.
That was one of the recommendations Tuesday by leading architectural research firm Populous, which was hired last year by OCCC to conduct a full campus plan study of the convention center, and offer recommendations on best use for its land in the future.
The first phase of that study was presented Tuesday in a public forum. Michael Lockwood, principal for Populous, offered innovative concepts for OCCC, from outdoor meeting space that puts attendees in touch with nature, to a transport service unique to the convention district that could shuttle visitors on a figure-eight route between the West concourse, North-South concourses, future development behind the Hyatt Regency and Pointe Orlando.
But vertical parking solutions are one of the few ideas that can help OCCC free up portions of its land currently not being used to maximum value, Lockwood said.
The 375-acre OCCC campus includes 161 acres (7 million square feet) under roof, with few truly vacant parcels of land on the property not actively used for some support service today.
The convention center currently has more than 6,700 parking spaces, which include a flat lot and garage on Destination Parkway, ground-level parking behind and underneath its West concourse and to the east of its North-South concourses.
Lockwood highlighted the potential addition of a new parking garage with 1,500 spaces during his presentation. It could be built on the rear side of the West building, directly above what is now an open-air truck loading dock.
The new garage concept would give visitors covered parking access within a few hundred feet of the building entrance, cover and secure the exposed loading area, and free up the surface parking behind the West building for creative new uses, like outdoor event space, Lockwood said.
In his firm's early conceptual drawings, the parking garage would be clad in a perforated metal that could offer OCCC a branding or marketing face for the rear of its West building, which has little visual appeal now to I-4 and Beachline Expressway passersby.
East of the North-South concourse building are two massive surface parking lots that have served as placeholders for the assumed expansion of convention center space in the future.
But Lockwood doesn't think convention concourse expansion is necessary, and could even be a detriment to the walkability of an already vast OCCC.
He'd encourage new vertical parking garages on two parcels east of the North-South building, freeing up a large portion of the property used now as surface parking for new development.
North of the Hyatt Regency Hotel lie 71.1 gross acres on three undeveloped parcels owned by three parties, which border the OCCC North-South concourses to the west. Lockwood envisions those properties being developed into an L.A. Live-esque complex with a mix of hospitality, entertainment and a parking garage.
Looking forward, Populous will continue developing Phase 2 of its master plan through July, meeting with the OCCC advisory board in August and providing more refined concepts, analysis and cost estimates.
The firm will complete the report and present it to Orange County's Board of Commissioners in September. The CountyCommission would then have the option to adopt some or all of the proposals after.