“The multi-acre Under-i project was touted as a way to connect Parramore to downtown Orlando via a membrane of public space, with planners looking to repair decades of segregation policies that were reinforced by the placement of the interstate with good design and placemaking, but it seems as if the City will be abandoning the project to build parking lots. Can you look into this?”– BUNGALOWER READER
Despite the recent delay in its timetable and what the above reader may have heard, the City of Orlando is not shelving its plans to build a park under the I-4 interstate running the length of Hughey and Garland Avenues between West Washington Street and West Church Street, but they have recently shifted the original plans to include surface parking.
We spoke with city staff about the new plans, which include bringing back the parking lots that were closed in 2015. A total of 900 surface parking spaces were torn up at that time to allow for I-4 Ultimate construction which required raising the overpasses.
The under I-4 project has not be “shelved,” rather the original design that was proposed prior to the pandemic and the completion of Ultimate I-4 is now being reimagined. After receiving feedback from our residents and businesses, the city is working to create a space that serves as a multi-modal hub for biking, ride-share and parking while also incorporating cultural amenities, lighting, artwork and much more. As we work to refine the design, this space will fulfill its vision to bridge both the east and west and unite downtown by delivering creative and engaging experiences for all.– ASHLEY PAPAGNI, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, CITY OF ORLANDO
Since the original closure of those surface parking lots, large landowners and businesses on Church Street have been privately lobbying the city to bring back the lots, citing dramatic reductions in visitors due to the lack of parking, and it appears that they’ve succeeded, albeit on a smaller scale. Martin Hudson, an Urban Project Manager with the City of Orlando, shared that the current plan calls for the return of 500 parking spaces in total, with the rest of the land being used for public activations and park space, around the perimeter.
Hudson, who is also working on finishing up Luminary Green‘s construction in Creative Village, shared that he and his team will be testing a variety of tech tools in that park like projections and innovative lighting solutions, that will also be applied to the Under-i project when completed.
“We’re applying a lot of the lessons we’re learning in Creative Village to this park – it’ll be like Luminary Green on steroids. There are about 100 columns under the interstate that we are planning to project onto in the Under-i, as well as the entire roof/base of the interstate itself. We can create waterfalls, starlit skies, you name it, to make it a really special space that will entice people to want to visit downtown. Actually there are 101 columns but people keep making dalmation jokes.”– MARTIN HUDSON
Hudson also shared that the park will feature a transit hub on Central Avenue for the nearby LYNX station as well as drop-off spaces for rideshare companies. Those parking lots can also be closed for special event programming too, so it will operate more as a flex space than a permanent pig pen for cars.
Church Street will receive some sort of special lighting treatments as well, with current calls for special archways, parking spots for food trucks, and built-in seating.
Plans for the new urban park, which you can see below, are still in the works and undergoing reviews and are likely to change in the coming months before it is completed sometime in 2024.
Do you have something you want us to look into for you? Send your question to [email protected] and we’ll check it out!