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John Hargrove

Downtown Orlando - The Walk-Friendly Vision

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I'm starting a new thread so that we don't hijack bic's University Club thread and drive Tim crazy with talk of walkability when all they want is news on the new tower. Stay tuned, I'll be posting much more....


Since Tim is anxiously awaiting updates on the University Club's new tower and instead he keeps getting tales of downtown's walkability, I thought I'd create a new thread where we could post about it. I'm enthused by all the opinions on the topic and there are several facts and links I hope to add along the way for folks who'd like to know more about why I think it's a realistic goal, but this will get us started.

 

First things first, are they (whether it be City Hall, MPO or those darned tree-huggers) trying to keep cars out of downtown? Nope. So far, there are no plans to try to take cars out of the mix downtown. It will probably be a long time before this Sunbelt city tries a dynamic pricing scheme to keep the cars out, as they have tried in places like London.

 

Instead, the goal is put pedestrians first downtown rather than vehicles. That's the way it started )whether the pedestrian in question had 2- or 4-legs). During the great catastrophe known as Urban Renewal, however, in the 1950's-70's, that changed. In an ill-fated attempt to save downtowns nationwide, neighborhoods were ripped out and replaced by interstate highways and expressways, or roads were widened and dedicated to one-way traffic to simulate the exciting new highways out in the 'burbs.

 

Of course in places like Manhattan, people like Jane Jacobs began pushing back as early as the 1960's. For those of us here in the provinces, it took until the 1980's. In Orlando's case, it was the new mayor elected in 1980, Bill Frederick, who bemoaned what had become of downtown. Mayor Bill's interest was not walkability, but his interest in saving the historic downtown core led him to accept that "you can't pave paradise and put up a parking lot" (although he had no problem with lots and lots of parking garages - more on that later)!

 

In my next post, I'll answer the question, "why downtown?" Mostly it's because it was developed for people in the first place, not cars. It's easier to fix. Downtown has a higher Walk Score than most places in Central Florida, especially South Eola and Thornton Park. More to come....

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I thought the Getrude walk is a bike trail extend along the rail road line till SLR.  They can get ride of on street parking spots on orange and create a different grade road for the bike. Isnt there talk about narrowing down orange?

 

As for University club 30 storie building, I thought city require some sort of retails space downstair to create urban environment....

 

I suggest that we change the library to an art museum, change the historic museum into a public market and change the old post office into a restaurant...

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Denmark is definitely ahead of everybody else in term or creating urban environment.

 

If I could, I would encourage more green buildings in downtown and educate people to be environmentally friendly. Start by changing people mindset.

All the parking garage will have a garden/park rooftop to create interest downtown. Then I would like to see the city changed the entire downtown by putting pedestrian/bike/public transportation in front of the car needs. Eliminate all the side walk parking spots and change it into dedicated bike lane. Close the entire church street from Church street station to citrus bowl from cars to create interest for a pedestrian mall type of development. 

 

At the end, Orlando doesn't have the gut to take this drastic move to change the culture.

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Thanks for creating this thread-- you beat me to the punch. :thumbsup: I'll be moving some of the posts from the University Club thread into here.

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Have you tried Le Gourmet Break on Magnolia/Church? They have been doing very well. They are very comperable to Le Petit Pleasures was in CP and Croissant Gourmet is in WP. I love their omelette croissants and the chocolate almond croissants--I'm there every week.

Yep, LGB is a semi-regular lunch spot for me since I work downtown and they're right at a Lymmo stop. It's a tougher sell for breakfast or lunch on a weekend, though, because I live in the Lake Como/DSW area. But love the food and the owner!

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Denmark is definitely ahead of everybody else in term or creating urban environment.

 

If I could, I would encourage more green buildings in downtown and educate people to be environmentally friendly. Start by changing people mindset.

All the parking garage will have a garden/park rooftop to create interest downtown. Then I would like to see the city changed the entire downtown by putting pedestrian/bike/public transportation in front of the car needs. Eliminate all the side walk parking spots and change it into dedicated bike lane. Close the entire church street from Church street station to citrus bowl from cars to create interest for a pedestrian mall type of development. 

 

At the end, Orlando doesn't have the gut to take this drastic move to change the culture.

 

Here's the thing.  I think you're going TOO far.  I would have never want to live in the things you're describing in a metropolis such as Orlando.  I have a lot of friends who own homes on the outskirts of the city proper, that love being close enough to downtown but without the hassle.  Living in 55W, I can barely get them to come to my apartment because of the lack of guest parking.

 

I work at Disney, and I have to commute between offices as far apart as on property as well as at Kirkman and I-Drive.  No amount of public transit will make my situation in Orlando feasible to be automobileless.

 

Entirely shutting down Church Street?  There's times when I need to stop at home for 15 minutes, so those few spaces out front of 55W are a godsend, or else I have to either park 4 blocks away at Jackson/Magnolia or go all the way up/down to the 9th floor of my parking garage.

 

Also, what's wrong with the library?  Why would we turn it into a museum?  Libraries are good things.

 

I'm perfectly content with bike lanes on roads.  Why do they have to be grade separated?  I would absolutely support adding a bike lane to Orange as well as South/Anderson though so that I don't have to go up to Livingston to go east.

 

Basically, I'm a guy posting on an urban forum, and I have no interest in the vision you're describing.  It isn't about guts, its about common sense.  If I'm not on board, who will be.

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I respect where you are coming from Andy, and there are several "share the road" type cyclists that don't even want to see bike lanes on the roads because of their ride in traffic dogma.

But ill say to you the same thing that I've heard said to them...if your goal is the 1% or so we have using a bike as transportation - then great - do nothing new or innovative.

Florida is flat, our rain is predictable for the most part - we can have a much larger bicycling community. The infrastructure is preventing this. Bike lanes are paint and paint on the road in a region that is on top every year for bike/ped fatalities, is just not good enough.

This isn't to say we have to build at the expense of automobile networks. But we have the room to do some great things that are win win for bike networks and economic development.

On that note, look what they just did in little ole Mount Dora: http://touch.orlandosentinel.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82036839/

Edited by Jernigan

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Yeah, don't get me wrong, I actually despise Critical Mass and the ilk for the "ride in traffic" mindset.  Yes, the road is made to be shared, but you simply aren't as fast or as wide as a car, so you're hurting efficiency.

 

Basically I'm all for enhancing cycle facilities, but obviously grade separated is more expensive than just adding a bike lane, so I'm content with the bike lane.  Baby steps.  Anything to make it so I have to ride on the road itself or improperly on the sidewalks less.

 

I guess for me, I'm selfish, I don't have some grand goal of everyone being like me.  I just want things to be convenient for me.  Heck, even the majority of my friends that live downtown (even my roommate!) shop at either the Colonial or Michigan Publix on their way home from work, or drive and park in the parking garage beneath the one in Paramount.  They find it insane that I walk 9 minutes and carry groceries home.  And these are the people paying the rates to live in high rises downtown.  They just appreciate the walkable food and bars, and that's all they think about.

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Parallel parking is a god send for people walking. It protects them from cars driving by. 

 

The biggest challenge to increased walking and riding is the heat. 

 

And the last thing we should do is force people to live that way. At a minimum, we should allow residents to live as they please. If we force everyone, I will be first in line to join the Tea Party and rally against agenda 21. 

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It is not "forced anyone to live anyway". For my opinion, it is an urban environment, it should be pedestrian first and car last. It seems like people living downtown still want to maintain suburban lifestyle. But at leaset you guys are living downtown, I just live south of downtown. Downtown is just a drive thru point for me to get to Mills or Park Ave and occasionally to the park.

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It's always interesting to me that, as we attempt to create ONE area of central Florida as walk-centric, many assume we're trying to undo every other auto-controlled neighborhood in the region, which has never been the goal. Of course, one has to wonder, why are the auto-friendly folks so certain their 100-year old virtual monopoly over America's streets is so fragile that it will fall apart when we try to put pedestrians first in one small area?

 

Nevertheless, Part 2 of our quest to show what we're attempting to do is to answer the question: Why Downtown Orlando

 

(1) Since it's the oldest area, it was laid out before postwar cul de sacs and highways obliterated the grid. Hence, it's the easiest (admittedly a relative term) to restore to a pedestrian-friendly zone.

 

(2) As a result, the downtown neighborhoods have some of the highest Walk Scores in central Florida: https://www.walkscore.com/FL/Orlando

 

In Part 3, we'll look at why downtown scored so high and what's still missing to complete the goal of an auto-free neighborhood for those who desire it.

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A few ramblings as there have been so many points in the recent posts -

 

Sunshine - Denmark is definitely setting the bar but how much credit do they get for "creating" their environment and how much of it was a simple organic evolution of cities that happened before the car went into mass production?  There may be some credit due as they do seem to be even more generous towards their cyclists than even their European counterparts that also predate the car.  But my point is that I don't think we can just copy/paste here because of all that has transpired since WW2 in terms of housing and transportation policy here in the US.

 

Andy - I do love my Share the Road friends.  Generally they are responsible, predictable and polite cyclists.  I don't think a drunk on a bike on Colonial at 2AM or a kid on his fixie weaving down the right shoulder of Mills have ever uttered the phrase, "Share the Road."  My point was that some of those guys do think the conversation on infrastructure ends there and that's where I say "Great, then enjoy your 1% participation."  I respect the right to ride in the road, but I believe a little investment in protected bike lanes, useful trails and other amenities would greatly increase the number of cyclists who would love to start riding.  

 

Jack - I also do love me some Agenda 21 crazies.  Seriously though, I would jump on that bandwagon too and only think they are crazy because if anything, our policies are forcing people TO have a car.  I think it's important to note that Tea Party, or at least libertarian values of free market driven results are in conflict with our transportation and land use policies.  Our gas taxes do not cover the roads we drive on, we fund growth on the idea of future growth taking care of the financing on the debt, etc.  The conflict is that the cultural and political/policy ideals don't overlap.  The same people who criticize the train they won't use don't mind living in a subdivision off of a 6 lane arterial that is in now way being built and maintained by their tax contributions alone.  

 

I do think we need to be considerate of changes to our urban areas and that things that may not favor automobiles may actually be the result of market driven decisions.  Free parking isn't free.  Land becomes simply too valuable for me and you to have the right to stash a very large personal item somewhere for an hour or 24/7.   Granted, if City Hall dictates that starting tomorrow, parking in all lots are $10/hr or $80/day, we may have to call B.S. on that as there's no way to justify that.   I certainly don't see that happening anytime soon though.  I think it will (and is) happening much more organic though.  Companies subsidizing transit versus parking as parking costs go up, or giving their employee $100 bucks a month and saying "Buy your parking spot, or buy beer.  It's up to you"  and letting them decide whether that means they continue to park, start taking SunRail or put that towards the higher rent of moving downtown and walking to work.  

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I have the privilege to travel in the scandanavian countries for almost a month, being a urban planning junkie, I am really surprise to see how progressive the way they are in creating sustainable urban environment. There are some organic growth in the older area (it got to be), but the government is doing everything to encourage that and not just let it "sit and wait". For example, they will create a brand new section of town with the train go right into the center of it. At that particular train station, there are dense and complex plan with public space, restaurants, shops and condo to serve as the center of the development. By doing that, they encourage other developments surrounding the station.

 

And as for Oslo, they are removing road in the downtown area to create parks. They rebuilt older area and port area to create museums, performing art center to encourage urban renewal.

 

But for Orlando, I think Sand Lake Road sunrail station is a prime location to create an urban center to mix tourists, locals and what we called "airport urban central". Yet, there are no plan there during sunrail planning stage until now. I know they have all these fancy drawing about that station. But nothing is being built. housing and transportation policy in the US doesn't stop Portland to being what it is. Orlando strikes to become world class city but there are no world class attitude to lead the pack. We will just sit around and wait.

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There are so many possibilities for bike lanes and paths that the city has yet to materialize:

Robinson - I'm assuming the whole road is getting the Edgewater treatment? I'm looking forward to E-W bike lanes that compliments Livingston.

Magnolia - where the Lymmo runs through I'm looking forward for the city to close that almost pointless one lane and turn it into a bike path/pedestrian mall.

Colonial - This is going to be controversial but removing the street parking on Colonial and putting in protected bike lanes sounds like a good idea to me. Outside of Mills 50, I don't see the street parking get used much.

What I'm anticipating most is the Urban Trail extension, its bridge over Colonial and down Gertrude's Walk all the way down to Church Street Station and beyond. I saw the visionary plans for Downtown South and the city is extending Boone Ave down to Sylvia Lane, with hopes of linking it to Franklin Lane and Sligh Boulevard. If the city gets their way with this, it presents a great opportunity for extending the Urban Trail all the way to the Amtrak/Sunrail station and the Orlando Health Complex, and maybe SoDo with a future Lucerne Terrace extension. I made in illustration of what it could look like in red, with an alternate path in blue down Boone.

Urban Trail.png

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