ORANGE AVENUE OVERLAY DESERVES A SECOND LOOK
Photo Credit: Demetree Global
By MARSHALL SWANSON
Winter Park, FL - The years-in-the-making Orange Avenue Overlay project recently met an abrupt end. And no doubt, some of the concerns raised by council members came from a place of genuine care for the town. We've all witnessed colossal apartment building projects and think, "no way, not in our town!" But out of the grim examples we may conjure up in our minds, few people remember the stellar achievements of development from around the world - and throughout Central Florida's history.
At one time, both the subdivisions of Bay Hill and Isleworth met criticism. In a larger historical context, the Eiffel Tower once seemed to be an eye-sore to residents of Paris, and yet, it now enjoys a place of honor in the hearts of millions, if not billions around the globe. If Windermere is Central Florida's Venice, then Winter Park is our Paris. Why not treat it that way? Just because a few naysayers shun development doesn't mean the town will end up destroying the cultural fabric that makes up Winter Park. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Though the proposed plans do not contain the full extent of blueprints and plans so many clamor for, one can hardly ignore the reality of Orange Avenue's stagnation. Yes, it is certainly important to preserve history, but a roadmap for progress is also key to increasing the beauty and attractiveness of any city. Some of the plans suggested in their preliminary form look quite appealing in our estimation, while others seem to be a post-modern bore: in any case, there's no denying that something has to change.
The Isle of Sicily and Via Tuscany won't save the rest of Winter Park from economic malaise. Among a few of the proposed graphics presented by advocates of development, the image above represents one of the many alternatives to the bland architectural features currently occupying the roadsides on Orange Avenue.
Of course, no one wants to destroy history, and perhaps a means of incorporating the current buildings may be found. But the vacancy of the vertical airspace above the road leaves room for want. A tiered approach seems best, as illustrated above, leaving the structures closer to the road lower in height, and those closer to the train tracks higher. This model has worked supremely well around the world to facilitate visually pleasing buildings while aiming to maximize space. A simple look at the fountain-side complex of shops and restaurants in Dubai demonstrates its effectiveness. Certainly Winter Park isn't constructing a Burj Khalifa, but there is a necessity to move beyond the status quo. Even religious leaders agree, "where there is no vision, the people perish."
That's not to say members of the commission are entirely wrong. Sometimes the critics of development get it right. For example, the Mount Vernon Inn served as a staple icon of Winter Park for years, and many who revered the venerable old structure long for its return. Casa Feliz nearly met destruction several decades ago before being preserved in a new location near the Winter Park 9. But it is doubtful any honest individual can even think of comparing the elegance of the Mount Vernon Inn or Casa Feliz to the ugly facades currently sitting alongside N. Orange Avenue. As for controversial developments, some residents of Orlando even thought Disney was a bad idea... But look at it now!
Orange Avenue must be revitalized. While the city commission debates the merits of backyard chickens and non-issues, many areas of Winter Park languish in blight and disarray.
Let's be thoughtful about Winter Park's future without thwarting progress and growth: bring back the Orange Avenue Overlay for a second look.
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