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About klstorey

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  • Birthday 08/15/1984

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    Washington, D.C.
  • Interests
    Urban Sociology, Urban Design, Tourism, Economic Growth, Creativity

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  1. I know I’ve been a bit MIA on here lately, don’t worry, I still read nearly every single post thanks to the email feature. I just wrapped up my first semester in my Urban and Regional Planning master's program at Georgetown in DC. I’ve been trying to relate everything I’ve learned and all the fantastic people I’ve met back to Orlando. Here a few thoughts from the semester that some of you hopefully find interesting. It seems like everyone on these boards is in a perpetual love-hate relationship with Orlando’s growth, but at least we’re growing! In my classes and in the 4 symposiums I attended this semester, the only times Central Florida was mentioned was in discussions on Lake None and Celebration. I would argue that Lake Nona is far more car-centric than many of us on here would prefer, but the gated cul-de-sacs don’t exist in most urban planners minds when they think of Lake Nona, all they’re aware of is the bold vision for the new downtown, Boxi Park, Laurent Park, and the Medical Village. I think this shows how powerful a good PR firm is at making a place the ‘it’ community. No one I spoke with knew of the Creative Village, despite it being far more impressive IMO in its revitalization. The same is true with Celebration and Baldwin Park. Everyone knows of Celebration, no one knows about Baldwin Park. This awareness of Orlando beyond the theme parks seems to be from a mix of things, including Lake Nona and, unfortunately, Pulse. I think the whole “You don’t know the half of it,” campaign seems dated these days. Everyone I spoke to DC, from my professors to students from places like Sri Lanka and Singapore to the elderly visiting professor from Cambridge, knows Orlando is more than theme parks and hotels. It’s time for Orlando to grow up and stop trying to convince others that it is a ‘real city.’ Most people seem to have been to a conference there, seen UCF or OCSC on TV, or know someone that lives there. This idea that people still only associate Orlando with Disney World is flawed and ignores the progress the region has made in the past three decades. One thing that Orlando could do a better job in embracing is its connection to pop music and 90s culture, both of which are in the midst of a renaissance. I think a lot of the “If only Orlando did ___, then it would be viewed as a big city” arguments point to physical additions when it seems like the best thing the city could do would be to hire a PR firm like Lake Nona or Celebration did. The City appears to be doing just as many bold projects as most other cities, people just don’t know about them in Orlando. Celebration is mentioned regularly as a planned community, no one seems to have heard of Winter Park, despite it being the state’s first planned community. As far as an arts culture is concerned, Orlando seems in the same league, if not ahead, of cities like Denver, Boulder, and Baltimore. Again, the difference is how little Orlando’s art scene is discussed outside of Orlando. I had lunch with a community manager from one of DC’s hippest neighborhood districts. He was talking about programs in his neighborhood that are viewed as the cutting edge of DC’s art scene, yet to me, it seemed like things Orlando was already ahead on. Pop-up art exhibits, art walks, joint events with bars and museums, etc. Transit Oriented Developments were continuously discussed, again with Orlando not once being mentioned in lectures or readings, despite nearly every single SunRail station either having them already or projects proposed nearby. Awareness seems to be the main issue here. But all-in-all Orlando seems to be doing about as well as any other city when it comes to these types of projects. Lowering parking minimums in downtown might help Orlando get more notice here but Longwood, SODO, and downtown all have great TODs that no one outside of the area seems to be aware of. The most obvious place Orlando lacks when compared to the cities I’ve studied this semester is in mass transit infrastructure. Again, the city is missing the opportunity to market itself in this field. Orlando has the nation’s first bus rapid transit system, yet it wasn’t mentioned in a single lecture or reading all semester. Orlando needs to embrace the BRT system and focus on using it as a way to differentiate itself from other Southern cities infamous for poor mass transit. The Kirkman BRT should be a priority, as should systems on 50 and University Blvd (though I’m not sure those are even being proposed any longer). This semester has given me a new appreciation for Orlando. The area seems to be right there with the best of them when it comes to the critical conversations regarding bike transit, gender/sexuality equity, arts, and new construction techniques. Many of the issues Orlando is facing, like ugly bland apartment buildings, insane rent prices, and gentrification, seem to be far more universal than we in Orlando like to acknowledge. One of the big differences, though, is the void of activist journalism in Central Florida. Orlando Weekly (who I still contribute to) and Bungalower both do a fantastic job of bringing awareness to the issues but we have nothing on the scale of something like DC’s Greater Greater Washington which focuses on specific issues, takes on the role of activist, and is relentless in its coverage until real actions are taken. In Orlando, the role of the news sites seems to stop at the awareness step. By far the biggest difference between the cities I’ve studied, and DC where I’ve been living, and Orlando is the lack of outrage in Orlando surrounding non-safe streets for pedestrians and bicyclists. A bike activist was recently hit and killed in DC. It led to massive protests, continuous coverage on local news, highly publicized meetings with elected officials, die-ins’ in the streets, and more. The outrage was shocking coming from Orlando where, unfortunately, vehicle fatalities have become such a common occurrence that the discussion around them is almost completely absent. I can’t imagine that same level of outrage and protest ever occurring in Orlando over a bicyclist’s death. I think it was able to occur in DC in part because of the activist journalism and because of the expectation that the city is under the microscope by others. Orlando seems to be missing both of those factors. FWIW, DC is now discussing protecting all bike lanes with concrete or other barriers. Let me know what you all think about my thoughts here!
  2. More attention needs to be paid to Margaritaville. It's opening in a few short weeks. The water will open a couple of months later. I don't think many realize how much innovation and unique design is going into this water park. Altogether, Margaritaville will add new business to 192 like nothing we've seen in probably decades. Yet, so few are talking about the project. To a lesser degree, but the same is true for Port Canaveral. A new aquarium, new dining, huge new terminals and yet I hear next to no one talking about Port Canaveral. It seems odd to me.
  3. It's nowhere near the SunRail station. I actually used to live directly across the street from there at a small college now known as Johnson University. My first real job in college was working security and parking at the Heritage Park. I remember living on campus when spring training was taking place, we had security to shoo away the sports photographers who would try and go to the second floor of the dorms to get photos of the Astros new players. This is very close to Kissimmee's NeoCity tech district. I'm curious if the Orlando Seawolves (the arena soccer team whose home is the Silver Spurs Arena) will partner with OCSC at all. I hope they do but I worry this might instead just cause attendance numbers at Seawolves games to be lower. That area around Heritage Park has struggled over the years even more than other parts of Kissimmee. There are some new investments but overall it's still a lot of undeveloped land and half-empty strip malls. I hope this causes some new investment. I'd love to OCSC also embrace Gateway High School which is just across the street, maybe let GHS's soccer team share the facility or something. Valencia has a campus not far away. Maybe we'll see a partnership between the two of them. Hopefully, a shuttle is offered from either the Tupperware or Downtown Kissimmee Sunrail stations.
  4. Things are in the works. This is a big year for Orlando, from start to finish.
  5. klstorey

    Orlando Transit

    Dockless bikes have had many issues in other cities but I think many of those issues result from inappropriate use by users. I think we have an opportunity in Orlando to learn from cities like Beijing, LA, Houston, and Tokyo to see what works and what doesn't. The biggest issue seems to be bikes just being dropped anywhere. This tells me we need to work on better and larger bike storage options. Also, not to sound negative but I doubt Orlando will see the issues other cities have faced simply because even if bikes were free and readily available I doubt many here would choose bikes over other transit options (mostly due to weather). IMO dockless bikes could work better here than many places simply because I don't see the numbers here to make them an issue. I hope they do cause bike use to increase here and thus push the city/county even more towards helping make our community more pedestrian friendly.
  6. I'll believe it when it opens. Right now, this seems right up there with the Vertical Medical City and the I-Drive megamall as possible but I'm not holding my breath.
  7. A- Tom at WDWNT has great info on Epcot but hotels but other parts of WDW his track record is questionable. B- These same gondolas have worked in other areas just as hot as here with no issues due to a system to move air thru the cabins (look at the vents on the bottom of the gondolas.) I'm concerned but wont write off the system until I can actually ride the system.
  8. I recall something about Google looking at a tech park in Sarasota. I know they have an office in Miami. I'm pretty sure Google dropped it's plans for a Central Florida office. According to this article from June, it looks like there's still hope that the tech research park is eventually developed around FPU. Honestly, as it grows I could see Florida Poly being a big competitor against UCF. Here is the original master plan. This is the one that they had the scale model for in the Polk State College board room. Sadly, the state spent all the money on having a star architect design this master plan then decided to not fund it and now we're left with one cool building, a bunch of rotting bridges, and ugly box-shaped dorm buildings. Speaking of fountains in lakes, whatever happened to the digital sign/art that was proposed for Lake Dot as part of the Creative Village development?
  9. I know for many of us this might not be a big announcement but the match will be aired in 170 countries. 170 countries were imagery of downtown Orlando will be seen. Where our skyline will likely be shown and where our hometown soccer stadium is showcased. This could be a positive step forward for helping Orlando outside of the tourist district develop its own identity. Event by event, person by person Orlando is becoming a sports mecca and is quickly moving beyond I-Drive being the only area tourists visit.
  10. I like taking tourists to Florida Mall vs other malls simply because of its size and unique stores (like M&M World). I think malls are great when they have destination retail that is experiential based. The worst thing that ever happened to Pointe Orlando was FAO Schwarz closing. I think Florida Mall would do great if it had some more retail of that type. I'd love to see the Bass Pro Shop move over there. I miss the surfing simulator at Florida Mall. Ironically, the type of retail currently at the mall would likely do better downtown and some of the stuff planned for downtown (like an adult-focused FEC) would do better at the mall.
  11. Don't forget that the area around Poly was supposed to be a tech research park, fueled by the high-speed rail. Google had already committed to an office there and many of the tech companies that now calls Orlando home would've likely been based out of there instead. All of that fell through when the research park was canceled after the high-speed rail was canceled. I actually work at FSC (in one of the Wright buildings!!) twice a week and I commute to Tampa two other days a week so I pass Poly four days a week. Next exit up there's a new McDonald's but otherwise, that area has never begun the vision that was in place back when Poly was announced. The campus plan called for multiple buildings from the same architect. I saw a model of the long-term plan on display at the Polk Community College campus on 98 just south of Lakeland/north of Bartow. No idea where that model is these days or what the plan is now for the campus. The ugly, box-like dorm building wasn't part of the plan I saw. I think that was a quick build after the plans for nearby developments were canceled.
  12. I had a friend visiting from South Korea. We passed Florida Hospital South and he asked if that was the mall. I then took him to the Florida Mall and he was severely unimpressed. I'm shocked Orlando still has no megamalls or downtown malls. There were the plans for the one west of I-4 and south of 50 but when those plans died with the Great Recession so did any hope we have had for downtown shopping. I'm curious with 100,000 sq ft of commercial in the Magic complex. I know they've hinted at an FEC like Andretti or Dave & Buster's but I think it could easily be ideal to others as well. Remember, Nike had plans pre-recession for a Nike Town in the CSS Exchange Bldg. I think a Nike Town in the Magic Complex would be a great addition to downtown. Definitely a better addition IMO than booze and sports and fake bowling.
  13. Love this idea. I just stopped by the Winter Park Library to early vote and ended up buying three old photograph books about Orlando. I'm sure I'll end up posting some of the pics on here. There are a couple of very active and insightful Orlando history groups on Facebook. Historic Orlando III is the best one I'm in. Someone on there posted old photos, including an inside one, from the old round building from the days before the extra floors were added.
  14. I find that these forums are usually faster and better than both. Back when I read GS they only posted like 3 stories a day, sometimes they'd go a week or more before getting anything of interest to me. My family is all in residential construction and most of the stuff they post regarding that is either old or not really that important. They do best with new businesses and big projects, like downtown towers. I personally don't think their subscription cost is worth it for the amount of news that I found relevant to my interests. I mostly read these forums via the emails and I follow a ton of local sites via Feedly. Most of the local blogs (like Bungalower, Daily City, Scott Joseph, Roger Simmons, Nonawise, and Orlando Rising) get stuff first. If you follow a bunch of them it's almost like one good paper. I agree that the quality of the content at OBJ has declined. It used to be my go-to, now it has so much fluff. Not really Orlando construction/urban planning but one great site that's well worth the subscription cost is Florida Today. One of the few magazines I almost always read cover to cover. I've been impressed by the improving quality at WMFE. They're really focusing on local news and with written articles. Lots of great talent over there that usually get overlooked because it's not print. I'm glad to see them focus more on non-audio ways to share news content. News 13 has also been steadily improving lately, especially with their theme park coverage.
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