Roots of Under-I4 Bridge District Lie in $656,600 Parramore Neighborhood Revitalization Grant

We exclusively broke the news December 8th that the City of Orlando had created a guiding plan for the much-talked-about Under I4 Bridge District. EXAMINE IT HERE

The district is being created because of the I4 Ultimate project, a 21-mile widening of I4. The name, based on what Skanska says, came from FDOT: "Our client, FDOT, dubbed this project the “ultimate” because it represents the final effort to physically expand this highway."

Once the Ultimate is built, that's it. No more widening. Says Sanska, "Once SGL Constructors completes its work, FDOT doesn’t see future possibilities for adding lanes."

The Bridge District, though new to some, isn't new to the city.

According to WFTV, in 2008, the City of Orlando won a grant for $656,600 for "planning and design of the bridge district, not construction."

In fact, the city applied (READ APPLICATION HERE) for a $656,600 grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and just a small portion of the grant was earmarked for the Bridge District:
  • $206,000 Land and Building Acquisition
  • $400,000 Accessory Opportunities 
  • $50,600 Bridge District
The project in the application was called "Parramore Neighborhood Revitalization."

From the Application: (READ IT HERE)
  1. Bridge District: There is a need to connect the core of Downtown Orlando located east of Interstate 4 with the Centroplex site on the west side of Interstate 4. While Orlando’s urban core is expanding with unprecedented dynamic growth, the City center itself is bifurcated with an old elevated section of Interstate 4 designed in the 1960’s. The concrete impediment walls off pedestrian traffic and limits integration of pedestrian connectivity between east and west Orlando, effectively, cutting the west side of Downtown off from the heart of Downtown Orlando’s activity. It is the City’s goal to create an inviting, safe and prosperous connecting environment through the development of a Bridge District that will include 2 story buildings being built under the interstate, along with developing additional street-level activities and uses. 
  2. Land and Building Acquisition: Residential development in Parramore Heritage has accelerated. The 203 unit Carver Park HOPE VI development, being undertaken by the Orlando Housing Authority is underway. In addition, the redevelopment of the 5 acre Parramore Village site has received city approval and will yield an additional 75 homes for sale. The Parramore Village and Carve Park site are contiguous; however, there remain several substandard structures on the periphery of these sites. The City will use EDI funding to continue to acquire these sites for future residential development 
  3. Accessory Opportunities: The residential development has brought about a need to improve the infrastructure of the neighborhood to include lighting, improvements to sidewalks and other amenities to improve the infrastructure of the neighborhood.
We've reached out to the City of Orlando about this grant. 

In 2009, Citylab-Orlando (Website) worked with the City of Orlando to get a grant for grad students to come up with designs for the Bridge District as part of a school project. Citylab-Orlando is a UF research and teaching center, launched inside the UCF Center for Emerging Media.

In 2009, the school said “The (bridge district) project seeks to optimize the integration of the new Amway Center with other uses and to explore urban design strategies that respond to the expansion of I-4.” He said the new I-4 would "provide opportunity for the space below the overpass.”

In 2010, 50 presentations for the Bridge District were prepared by UF students according to Brevard Business News. It's not known if ideas in any of these 50 presentations still live on the current working plan.

The City of Orlando has stated the FDOT owns the land beneath the overpass and no agreement is in place to move forward with the project yet.

However, in multiple pages of the Downtown Orlando Community Redevelopment Area Plan called Downtown Outlook, it's said that the CRA may fund construction of the Bridge District:  
  1. "The CRA may support and fund the design and construction of the I-4 underpasses, including the Bridge District construction."
  2. "The CRA may support and fund the design, construction and related costs of the I-4 underpasses, including the Bridge District construction within the Redevelopment Area."
It also repeatedly brands the the district project as a "potential catalyst project" that will "reconnect the urban fabric" of Downtown Orlando:
  1. "In addition, the Bridge District is a potential catalyst project that will redevelop and activate the area under I-4 by creating active uses bridging the east and west sides of Downtown Orlando to reconnect the urban fabric."
  2. "The Bridge District is a potential catalyst project that will redevelop the area under I-4 by creating active uses bridging the east and west sides of downtown to reconnect the urban fabric."
The Project DTO Final Vision Plan directly addresses a problem the Bridge District will solve: lack of gathering places:

It goes on to say that that I-4 will be higher once the I-4 Ultimate Project is complete:

More about Bridge District in the Final Vision Plan: