January 29 2013

5 Ways to Bring People Back to Downtown: Examples from Orlando, Florida

Sky House goes up on Magnolia Ave in downtown OrlandoOrlando, Florida’s downtown is undergoing what you might call a “residential renaissance.” As one of the leaders in this national trend, Orlando is seeing faster growth in its downtown than in its suburbs.

Economists suspect thousands of apartment units will be added to Orlando’s urban core over the next four years, with a handful of projects already under construction. This is great news for the city, since urban planners consider dense development patterns more economically powerful and more environmentally responsible.

So, how can we encourage people to move to our downtowns? Here are five ways downtown Orlando is attracting new residents:

1. Transit

As we saw in a previous post entitled “How to Revolutionize a City’s Transit System: An Orlando, Florida Case Study,” new rail and bus projects are transforming the way Central Floridians get around. Living and working close to a transit stop is seen as an asset, making well-connected developments easier to market.

2. Jobs

A major draw for any downtown resident is the close proximity to their place of work. In Orlando, some of these include governmental facilities, schools, sporting venues, and, of course, the Central Business District offices.

3. Vibe

People move to downtowns because they want to experience everything from trendy restaurants to quality people-watching. They want to be close to major venues, museums, and events.

Downtown Orlando apartments and points of interest, map by Alex Lenhoff

4. Convenience

Downtowns generally represent the epicenter of a city, with major highways and transportation hubs making it easy to get just about anywhere. Furthermore, apartments are replacing pre-bust condominiums, allowing a wider audience to live downtown.

5. Value

Usually we think of living downtown as expensive. However, downtowns are looking to diversify their populations by adding affordable housing, workforce housing, and student housing. On top of that, rents in downtown Orlando can rival those in other parts of the region.

Whether to live in or just to visit, what attracts you to an urban environment?

Credits: Images copyright Alex Lenhoff. Data linked to sources.

Alex Lenhoff

Alex Lenhoff is a graduate of the Masters of Planning in Civic Urbanism program at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His other degrees include anthropology and foreign languages, which provide him with a diverse, human-centered perspective on urban planning. Alex returned to Orlando after spending a few years traveling through Europe, teaching English, and attending universities in Germany and Spain. He hopes to use his experiences abroad to further the built environment in Florida through efficient design, environmentally friendly practices, and authentic communities. During his time at The Grid, Alex wrote about Orlando’s challenges and successes, while profiling a city coming into its own.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 at 9:25 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Housing, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “5 Ways to Bring People Back to Downtown: Examples from Orlando, Florida”

  1. andi Says:

    Great graphic! This is the type of map that Orlando urbanites are looking for- quick, clear, and easy to see how our downtown may look in the not-to-distant-future.

    I’ve noticed that the vibe of downtown has improved in the past few years. I have to attribute this, at least partly, to local foodies opening great, unique restaurants in the dt and surrounding areas. Also, having lived in a number of cities- Orlando stands out for its condensed and relatively clean downtown.

    Thanks for keeping us informed!

  2. mark Says:

    Very exciting stuff here. Having local officials who take seriously the live-work-play model of urban development is key. Also, transit is going to play a major role. Hopefully sunrail lives up to its potential, and is also just the beginning of serious evolution in Orlando’s transportation systems. Downtown Orlando was boring and dead when I moved here over 10 years ago. Now, people look forward tonot only going out in the downtown core, but also calling it home.

  3. Nick Says:

    I agree with you and believe this transformation of downtown is happening everywhere. People are drawn to a life of convenience and want to be able to choose from a variety of bars, restaurants, art and music events, and public places to interact socially. I have friends and colleagues residing in different dense urban neighborhoods and they all chose to move there because of the pull factors you mentioned in your post. Thanks for sharing your city’s success stories!

  4. Alex Says:

    A: Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you like the map. I agree, our downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods are some of Orlando’s best kept secrets — for visitors and residents alike.

    M: I agree, progressive leaders and developers who understand the importance of downtown development are key. Orlando has a ways to go, no doubt, but if we keep developing at the same pace, the future looks bright.

    N: Thanks for commenting! While there are plenty of great suburbs out there, for a growing number of people, downtowns (or at least mixed-use areas) are becoming more practical and interesting. I think this will be especially true with the growing cost and time involved in traveling around spread-out cities.

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