The City of Orlando recognizes the importance of strong neighborhoods and local business districts in enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Orlando. Neighborhood commercial districts can provide services to residents close to their homes, create jobs, bolster the sense of place in a community, and promote green initiatives and sustainability goals by reducing the amount of time residents need to spend in their cars. Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Strengthen Orlando initiative and the City’s Main Street programs have helped enhance neighborhood commercial districts like S. Orange Avenue and Michigan Street. However, bolstering neighborhood commercial districts has made these areas even more attractive to developers looking to build infill projects. While investment in the local business districts of Orlando is desirable, existing zoning rules are often more applicable to greenfield development and lack the special considerations for appropriate transitions and urban form necessary to sustain the desirable characteristics of traditional Main Street areas. With this understanding, Mayor Buddy Dyer in consultation with District 1 Commissioner Phil Diamond and District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan appointed a citizen task force to partner with the City of Orlando’s Community Planning Studio to shape a vision for the South Orange Avenue and Michigan Street corridors in the Downtown South Main Street area. The Task Force held public meetings once a month and sponsored several workshops, including a “walkabout” activity in early November 2009 to evaluate existing conditions in the study area.
The work of the Task Force considered the need for compatible infill development standards along the corridor as well as the continued expansion of the Orlando Health campus, the future implementation of a Commuter Rail stop on Sligh Blvd., and the designation of S. Orange Avenue and Michigan Street as a Main Street district. The focus of the Task Force has been to develop appropriate guidelines for private development along the corridor. The guidelines are meant to promote better decisions regarding master plans, conditional use permits, planned developments, re-zonings, and density/intensity bonuses. These guidelines will also help minimize commercial intrusion into surrounding neighborhoods, while promoting creative site planning and redevelopment.
In addition to the guidelines in this document, Growth Management Plan and Land Development Code amendments are also proposed. It is hoped that this work will result in greater predictability for both residents and future developers alike by establishing regulatory authority over all future development proposals.