Orange County Government is in the early stages of assessing land it owns along S. John Young Parkway for a new staff office building, with the potential to move divisions from its downtown headquarters that are bursting at the seams with growth and development activity.
The new site under consideration is at 3150 39th St., directly north of the county's Public Works office building at 4200 S. John Young Parkway.
The 39th Street parcel has a few small building pads on it now leased by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, but the majority of land is vacant. With a small contiguous lot it could provide up to 10.6 acres of buildable area.
Orange County is starting to assess the land and its stormwater retention needs for the option of a new multi-story office building, Anne Kulikowski, director of administrative services, told GrowthSpotter on Friday.
Potential targets for the move are the county's planning, zoning and building permit divisions, all of which now occupy most of the first and second floors in Orange County's administration building at 201 S. Rosalind Ave. in the heart of downtown Orlando.
Demand for the day-to-day services of those divisions has grown rapidly in recent years, in step with new development and construction.
That five-story, 132,766-square-foot administration building dates to 1984, with little room inside for reconfiguration. At the first-floor permitting office, customer traffic often overflows in the hallway during business hours, Kulikowski said.
County staff at the admin building currently park in the employee-only surface lot to the east, and most customers park in the five-story garage directly south.
Use of the garage is limited, though. It's owned by the city of Orlando and 300 spaces are leased to the county, but at peak hours the garage also draws customers from neighboring churches and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
If a new office building is developed on county land along S. John Young Parkway, it would probably be designed with enough space to allow growth of those three key divisions and house other agencies, Kulikowski said.
And space vacated in the county's admin building could be filled by other departments that are now in leased office space elsewhere, she added.
While parking and office space constraints would be eased with the move to a new building, what the community could lose is the synergy now enjoyed by many development, civil engineering, architecture and construction firms with having main offices for Orange County and the city of Orlando within blocks of each other in downtown.
At a time when the county's long-range planning strategy is increasingly focused on urbanization, moving divisions responsible for that planning to a suburban setting lies somewhat in contrast to those principles.
The next step will be to evaluate which county departments should move to the John Young Parkway site, then issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design of a building, Kulikowski said.
But before that happens, the proposal would have to go before the Board of County Commissioners for review, likely in their annual budget work sessions this summer, she added. Approval of a new building would have to go through that budget process, and a new county mayor that will take office in January may want a say in the matter.
Development and construction of the building could be funded primarily by the fees paid for new construction and development-related permit applications, since those divisions would be primary occupants there, Kulikowski said.
"It would be a very limited impact on the taxpayer-generated dollars we collect," she said. "The whole goal in this is to make a really convenient, accessible space for our customers that makes fiscal sense."