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spenser1058

The Dog(s) That Did Not Bark

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Every now and then, it's interesting to sit back and ponder the issues that, for one reason or another, although they exist in plain sight, go unremarked by Orlando's reporters, bloggers and others. I have noticed that in the Sentinel, OBJ and the various local blogs, we are quite fortunate to hear almost immediately when something new is happening. However, thanks, I suppose to the decimation of the Sentinel's longtime reporter ranks and the fact that most of the bloggers are young, the back story of why something doesn't happen is routinely overlooked or ignored. 

 

Back when Ed Prizer still ran Orlando Magazine, its focus was on the various changes in the region, but even he preferred to focus on the new. We also know that Buddy Dyer has almost no use for historic Orlando, as we saw early on in the overnight destruction of the Jaymont block.

 

Maybe I'm alone in caring about such things - one can certainly make the case that if Chase Plaza is unexceptional in its architecture, it certainly has reinvigorated that block of downtown and Buddy did indeed fulfill a campaign promise with the opening of the movie theaters. But, if I be but a voice in the wilderness, maybe it might lead others to ponder the "unexamined life" of downtown before we wake up 40 years later (as in the case of OBT) and say, "oops."

 

Along this line, two items struck me this week as I wandered around downtown.

 

(1) Has anyone noticed that we have begun to ignore the historic downtown core just as surely as we have ignored OBT until very recently? I'm hoping Jack can help me out here, because in several of the key historic buildings (Rutland's, Ivey's, the Old State Bank and Trust/FAMU building come to mind), several floors seem to be empty in each. Given this state of affairs, I guess the first question is, are they profitable like this? If they are, perhaps it's much ado about nothing. But if they're not, are they remaining like this month after month with a goal, as was achieved with Jaymont, just waiting until they're so far gone that Buddy can send out the bulldozers and say, "gosh, I just didn't have a choice?" Or, something I've wondered about, if they are indeed obsolete as office space, should we be rethinking their use as apartments given the popularity of rentals downtown? A third option also came to mind: downtown really needs more students - could these buildings be refitted for use as a SCAD-type institution (I think more fine-arts oriented as both UCF and Full Sail seem to have cornered the market on more technology-based genres like video games)? If so, should we be encouraging philanthropists like Harriet Lake to direct her charitable giving that way?

 

(2) Has anyone else noticed that the war between OC and City Hall has been winding down, and the copper dome won? This is intriguing from a political science standpoint. When the Orange County Charter was created back in the late 1980's, there was a real effort to move county government toward the strong-mayor system by which Orlando's mayor had long been the stud duck of the region. Almost 25 years later, we've seen a number of skirmishes and who seems to have emerged the victor but, Buddy Dyer! For years and years, almost all the press written on the subject after the change assumed the mayor of Orange County would supplant the City's politicians, but, most recently, in the effort to conclude the venues, not only was Teresa following Buddy's lead, but the TDC (which historically comprised the County's power base - remember Rich Crotty's "Downtown Orange County?") issued hardly a squawk. While this is all to the good and I am by no means complaining, it is a sea change from the days when the County's minions threatened to move the entire county government out to 33rd Street. Did personalities win out or is something else at play?

 

 

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I am not sure about those buildings. What are their current names?

 

The Trust/ FAMU is tough because there is no parking. It would not work as residential because of that. 

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I am not sure about those buildings. What are their current names?

 

The Trust/ FAMU is tough because there is no parking. It would not work as residential because of that. 

Rutland's is Seacoast National Bank (65 N Orange); Ivey's is One S. Orange. I wonder, if parking would be an issue,  if the discussion we had about Miami allowing condos with little to no parking is something we should look at for downtown? Perhaps as a way to keep rents lower for artist/student types? Since there seems to be a trend to the Millenials being less likely to own cars, this might be the tme to consider something like this. I wonder if our planners are forward-thinking enough to accept such a thing.

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The State Bank of Orlando and Trust Co building at 1 North Orange Avenue, formerly home to FAMU Law, is in disrepair, and is likely on the cusp of being too far gone, or it will be if its deterioration is allowed to continue unabated.  Would be a tragedy in my mind to lose it.  In my opinion, the planners should step aside and allow the owner to make a business case for it.  Allow the developer to retrofit for apartments, if he thinks he can make a go of it.  Allow him to rehab it for office use, or a hotel, or really any use he wishes.  I could imagine much lower rents (relative to other downtown properties), if he weren't forced to contend with ridiculous parking minimums, etc.  With car share, bike share, Sunrail, Lynx all within a short walk, many UCF digital media students would live there, why not a paralegal who works at Morgan & Morgan across the street?  How about a bar back at one of the Church Street haunts?  Movie theater attendants at Plaza?  Those of us who want to live downtown, close to work, aren't all able to afford a $1400/month one-bedroom rental in Thornton Park.  And that's okay!  :)

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1 N Orange does not have to allow for parking as it is already an existing building. Tenants just find their own in the surrounding garages. No planners are in the way of its success. Turning it unto residential is another story. I am not sure what shape the building is in but I would imagine it to be pretty rough. 

I am sure the owner has calculated what it would cost to bring to modern standards vs what they would get in return. 

 

With that being said, I like the building. 

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1 N Orange does not have to allow for parking as it is already an existing building. Tenants just find their own in the surrounding garages. No planners are in the way of its success. Turning it unto residential is another story. I am not sure what shape the building is in but I would imagine it to be pretty rough. 

I am sure the owner has calculated what it would cost to bring to modern standards vs what they would get in return. 

 

With that being said, I like the building. 

 

My understanding is that if a substantial change is made to the building, which exceeds a certain percentage of its value (75%?), the City would require its compliance with current building codes and zoning ordinances, so not all uses are legally permissible.  It is possible that the remediation could cost that much or more.  Am I mistaken?

 

My point was not to deride planners--in fact, I am very much encouraged by the recent parking ratio updates that the City made.  However, it seems at times that they have a very limited perspective on how good things could be given a little latitude; and we are forced to abide by their determinations.

 

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

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I would be very interested to know who drives the zeitgeist of the planners. I'm sure they're a hard-working group doing what they can. Here's the thing: for whatever reason, the historic downtown is no longer getting the attention it did back when Bill Frederick was mayor. This, of course, could be coming directly from the top - where Mayor Bill really liked to think about the minutiae of what would make downtown attractive, Buddy's focus is generally what the next big project will be. Buddy also seems to have a checkoff list of campaign promises he's making his way through (certainly not a bad idea for a politician - the kerfuffle over the bar hours being the latest of these.)

 

It may also be that it simply no longer matters to enough people. When downtown restoration began, Ivey's, for example, had only been closed for 5 years. There was almost no one who had lived in town for any length of time who hadn't at least wandered through the store at one time or another, often with fond memories. 30+ years later, how many people can say that? 

 

Another factor is that the Main Street neighborhoods as well as Winter Park and downtown Winter Garden have each done their own restorations so downtown Orlando is no longer the only participant in creating funky places for people.

 

It's always important to choose your battles. If the battleground has changed, those of us in the preservationist community need to identify exactly what we want to save downtown rather than trying to preserve things that mean nothing to 95% of the population. Mike Boslet, the former editor of Orlando Magazine, made the point (in an extreme fashion) by suggesting the time had come to level Church St. to alleviate the woes it had been experiencing. Meanwhile, saving the brise soleil blocks of an unimportant savings and loan has become a cause celebre among the smart set. I'm interested in resetting the priorities of downtown to ensure its long-term viability.

Edited by spenser1058

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My understanding is that if a substantial change is made to the building, which exceeds a certain percentage of its value (75%?), the City would require its compliance with current building codes and zoning ordinances, so not all uses are legally permissible.  It is possible that the remediation could cost that much or more.  Am I mistaken?

 

My point was not to deride planners--in fact, I am very much encouraged by the recent parking ratio updates that the City made.  However, it seems at times that they have a very limited perspective on how good things could be given a little latitude; and we are forced to abide by their determinations.

 

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

You are correct, but the building currently exists as an office building. I cannot remember the value but in a building that sold for so cheap, it probably would not be that hard to trigger the code compliance issues. The parking requirements would not be an issue as there is no way to put parking on the site. 

 

I think that building is a victim of the office market still lagging, (there is tons of vacant space) and a tough location (no parking). 

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I would be very interested to know who drives the zeitgeist of the planners. I'm sure they're a hard-working group doing what they can. Here's the thing: for whatever reason, the historic downtown is no longer getting the attention it did back when Bill Frederick was mayor. This, of course, could be coming directly from the top - where Mayor Bill really liked to think about the minutiae of what would make downtown attractive, Buddy's focus is generally what the next big project will be. Buddy also seems to have a checkoff list of campaign promises he seems to be making his way through (certainly not a bad idea for a politician - the kerfuffle over the bar hours seems to be the latest of these.)

 

It may also be that it simply no longer matters to enough people. When downtown restoration began, the downtown Ivey's, for example, had only been closed for 5 years. There was almost no one who had spent time in town for any length of time who hadn't at least wandered through the store at one time or another, often with fond memories. 30+ years later, how many people can say that? 

 

Another factor is that the Main Street neighborhoods as well as Winter Park and downtown Winter Garden have each begun their own restorations so downtown Orlando is no longer the only participant in creating funky places for people.

 

It's always important to choose your battles. If the battleground has changed, those of us in the preservationist community need to identify exactly what we want to save downtown rather than trying to preserve things that mean nothing to 95% of the population. Mike Boslet, the former editor of Orlando Magazine, made the point (in an extreme fashion) by suggesting the time had come to level Church St. to alleviate the woes it had been experiencing. Meanwhile, saving the brise soleil blocks of an unimportant savings and loan has become a cause celebre among the smart set. I'm interested in resetting the priorities of downtown to ensure its long-term viability.

I am a firm believer that the market should dictate what is built. I personally would not build anything downtown without parking but the City should not stop a guys if he so chooses. If a developer submitted to planning a project with zero parking spaces, they would pull out their code book and say "we cannot allow that because the book says so."  

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