Project DTO, the downtown Orlando task force, met last week to discuss some preliminary ideas around how to improve downtown.
The nine committees of the task force presented their ideas on what the opportunities are to improve the area. While each committee was set to focus on a specific part of the downtown environment, there were three major themes to most of the opportunities:
Alternative Transportation & Connectivity
There are clear opportunities to better connect not only the different downtown areas but also the surrounding neighborhoods.
The current connectivity options include the free LYMMO bus which only runs within the core downtown area (connecting Central Business District, Church Street, Thornton Park and Parramore).
The idea would be to expand the LYMMO as previously discussed to include the Bungalow districts to the north and south (Ivanhoe Village, Health Village, College Park, Mill 50 and Downtown South).
The committee chairs also appeared less than impressed with the current LYMMO. “It’s very slow…sometimes we out walked the LYMMO bus,” Access chairwoman Shelly Lauten said.
It was also pointed out that the current LYMMO only runs until 10:00 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday while the downtown bars are open until 2:00 a.m. Bungalower has learned that it would only cost the Downtown CRA an additional $25,000 per year to run LYMMO later to meet needs of the bar crowd.
Other committees also pointed out the need to make LYMMO more iconic to our downtown. This could be in turning them into more like street car, getting creative with the vehicles and stops or even just painting the route onto the street so it’s clear where the bus route is.
The conversation wasn’t just limited to LYMMO. The task-force is also looking at other rapid transit options to connect the east and west ends of Central Florida to downtown.
It’s also clear that the committee’s felt that Downtown Orlando needed to be more bike a pedestrian friendly. This includes not only bike paths and lanes but also better bike and moped parking.
Another option to make Downtown more pedestrian friendly is to create less thoroughfares through Downtown. One way to change this feel is to make Orange ave and Rosalind Ave two-way streets instead of one-way.
The committees also mentioned closing down more streets downtown to create a better walkability. This could be permanent or on a once-a-month basis.
There was a clear call for more open spaces. The task force looked at a study by The Trust for Public Land which showed that Orlando had only 3.9% of the city as public park land versus other comparable cities between 5% and 16%.
One clear option is to use the excess land that will be available after the Ultimate I-4 project to create a spine for a network of open spaces.
Once the project is complete I-4 will be elevated throughout downtown with open space below it. The city will have a unique opportunity when deciding what to do with this space.
A draft map shown at the meeting shows that green network going from Loch Haven Park to Orlando Health along the I-4/SunRail corridor and then east to Lake Eola and north to Lake Highland. There is also a network along Parramore Ave that goes into Creative Village and Lake Dot.
At this point it’s not decided as to what that network will look like. In areas under I-4 it might be more alternative urban open spaces such as a skate park, interactive art exhibits or even a kayaking course. In other areas it might be pocket parks connected by bike and pedestrian paths or more green streetscaping.
It was clear that the task force want not just open space but also gather spaces. It was pointed out that Lake Eola is already being used at capacity so creating other gathering spaces and improving Lake Eola Park (specifically the amphitheater) can create more opportunities for events and gatherings.
Project DTO is also attempting to tackle the identity problem for Downtown Orlando. Step one is deciding on what is downtown. The legal definition includes places like Parramore, Central Business District, Thornton Park, Church Street and Uptown/North Quarter.
The project is looking at the larger neighborhoods/Main Streets that surround downtown.
When we started Bungalower we struggled with the same problem the only name for this area was the “Traditional City” as defined by the City. Named because it’s the pre-World War II city limits.
We decided to call it downtown plus the bungalow neighborhoods..hence Bungalower.
The other identity problem is that we have Main Streets and neighborhoods which sometimes line up (College Park, Audubon Park, Thornton Park, Church Street) but sometimes are unique names (Ivanhoe Village, Mills 50, Downtown South) and then there are areas that aren’t a neighborhood nor a Main Street (North Quarter, Milk District, Midtown).
One idea is to create these larger districts or boroughs that would use the Main Street (or area) name so that you would end up with having neighborhoods within the district as in “I live in the Delaney Park neighborhood of Downtown South or Colonial Town North neighborhood of Mills 50).
Once they figure out what everything is called and what downtown is they plan to create gateway features for downtown. This would be larger entry features to let people know that they are entering downtown or one of the surrounding districts.
This can be as big as monuments or public art as you enter or a small as the district names being included on the top of road signs.
The idea being to better connect the downtown neighborhoods to downtown.
The other concept brought up by a lot of the committees was to create signature events for the downtown area to help brand the area.
Project DTO’s final vision plan is due out this October.