The first house I built for myself was on the south side of Orlando, in a transitional neighborhood now called the Hourglass District. It didn’t have a name then, but I had a hunch that it would one day.
As our family grew, my wife and I knew it was time to trade the two-story townhouse for a home we could grow into. On weekends, we’d point the car to explore lesser-known pockets, in search of an emerging neighborhood that was family oriented, with good schools and that was pointing toward our growing Orlando culture and everything that is starting to bubble up within it. We found the dirt of our hearts’ desire in the Audubon Garden District near Leu Gardens and built our home there.
I grew in the New Jersey suburbs, going to New York City my whole life and then to school in Boston and witnessing amazing urban living. My experiences were all in cities where the districts were firmly established. The really amazing thing since I’ve been in Orlando, where I began my company Interstruct in 2001, has been being able to watch the districts within Orlando emerge.
Imagine my joy last year to be able to contribute a master plan concept for the Hourglass District to the developers of this activated area anchored on Curry Ford Road, west of Bumby Avenue. There’s a flurry of recent businesses that have opened or are coming soon: Foxtail Coffee, Tamale Co, Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub, Peaceful Peacock Orlando Yoga and others. You can read more about our vision for making this a thriving retail-residential district HERE.
Over the last 10 years, it’s been amazing to watch the likes of Audubon Park, the Milk District and Mills 50 take shape. Then there’s Lake Ivanhoe and Virginia Drive. Between them now is the 7-acre site being developed, called The Yard.
In 2016, Interstruct had the privilege of designing and building the new studio and workshop space for ArtReach Orlando — a non-profit organization that delivers hands-on art classes to underserved communities. They lease a major chunk of the space to the McRae Art Studios, a collective which lost its longtime home in Winter Park. The two groups’ new homebase is a former auto-body shop at 1000 Arlington in Parramore that we were able to remake into a light-filled space offering studios that inspire the professional artists and large classrooms that facilitate ArtReach’s workshops and summer camps.
To the east of the community art space is the developing Creative Village — a 60-acre parcel — and to its north is the planned Packing District — a 45 acre project — located on the western edge of College Park at Orange Blossom Trail that will include a 10-acre park, gifted by Dr. Phillips Foundation and to be cared for by the City of Orlando.
All of this points to something that Orlando has that few other growing cities do. Our emerging districts are one of the most important catalysts for smart, urban infill development in Orlando. A district creates scale within the fabric of a neighborhood. This scale allows for the opportunity of thoughtful design that addresses the pedestrians and makes cities walkable.
We love that we’re able to do work that benefits our community and that is improving our neighborhoods.
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