City to Work with West Art District on Updating City's Mural Rules

The West Art District mural code violations item we told you about yesterday was deferred from the regularly scheduled April 12th City Code Board meeting to the May regularly scheduled City Code Board meeting. Harrison Rai, Manager of West Art District, notified The Daily City by phone today at 6:15pm of the cancelation. The City confirmed it at 6:28pm. 

The property owners met at City Hall today with Brooke Bonnett, Walter Hawkins, Mike Rhodes, Frank Billingsly and Dean Grandin. In that meeting it was discussed that the City wants murals and art to flourish in the City, but that they have to take into account how this will work with neighboring businesses, constituents and how it will affect murals in other areas of Orlando. 

At issue is street-facing murals: they're not permitted in the city. Murals are allowed on the sides and rear of buildings. The West Art District buildings are covered with murals on the fronts, sides and backs.

Rai is optimistic about the outcome of all of this. "I don't think it's going to get to a meeting. I think we will be able to work together on basically a whole mural program."

Bobby Davidowitz, Co-Founder of West Art District, agreed. "Our hope is to come up with a plan before that so we dont have to have a code enforcement meeting." 

Davidowitz was at the meeting with the City. "Generally  they're supportive of the arts. They already had a mural program in place so they have attempted before to address murals in a different way. Before (the new mural program), mural art was falling under signage per code and they realized they had to do something to allow art to flourish in Orlando and come up with a system. That said, its a newer system and they currently want to work with us to enhance it in a way to be more inclusive."

The owners and the City plan to meet multiple times between now and the hearing in May. 

"There will be subsequent meetings in the next couple weeks," Davidowitz said. "I doubt it will be just one."

He and the owners will also meet with the people who live and work in the area. "We will most likely go with the Representative for the Parramore area, Walter Hawkins, to talk to some neighbors and constituents to make sure we address their concerns."

But overall, the goal is to find a solution by editing the City's current mural policies. 

"Because of how unique the project is, (the City) is in agreement they have to come up with something that make sense in order to allow the project to continue but also make sense for other buildings too. They have to figure out a framework to apply to other buildings in other areas.Thats going to be our challenge in the next month or so: something that complies but allows more leeway than the previous programs. Something that the owners, the city and surrounding residents can be happy with."

The City made it clear in the meeting they're not wishing to obstruct murals in Orlando. Davidowitz said, "One thing they did say is that they're on our side. We're not fighting against each other. They see the positive aspects of it. What they didn't like is that this went so fast in such a short period of time they didn't know how to respond when they were getting calls (from neighbors and constituents). They want to make sure they have a good answer for them."

The owners want to not only put murals where they're currently not allowed (the front of buildings) but they also want to change and rotate out the art. For example, if an artist from another city comes to Orlando and they want to contribute a piece, they want that flexibility. Right now, that isn't present. Davidowitz said changing out murals is allowed, but there's an application procedure, drawing submission and an application fee. The process doesn't yet provide for projects like West Art District that want to rotate murals and change whats on their walls throughout the years.

"Right now we're using the entire canvas." Davidowitz is referring to the presence of murals and art everywhere and anywhere all over the buildings. The City would like a bit more structure. "They seemed very receptive to framing it out: having a border at the top and having a framed area for the murals so it doesn't look piecemeal or disorganized. We were already planning on doing something like that. We proposed it to them an they seemed receptive."

In 2015, the City created a new, streamlined process to approve artistic murals and allow for this creative expression to expand in the City.

Below is an overview of our current mural policy process. Any mural not meeting these requirements may still be allowed but would require a sign permit.
  1. Location in the City — The artistic mural must be located in a non-residential area that is designated as an activity center or mixed-use corridor inside a Main Street or Market Street that isn’t a historic district or be adjacent to a LYMMO or SunRail station.
  2. Location on the Building — The artistic mural must be on either the sides or rear of the building.
  3. Height of the Mural — The artistic mural can only take up a certain percentage of the wall depending on the height. No mural can be more than 60 feet tall.
  4. Commercial Message and Text — The artistic mural can have a sponsor (text or logo) but can not take up more than 5% of the mural. Any non-commercial text, separate from the sponsorship, can also not take up more than 5% of the mural
  5. Maintenance Standards — Prior to painting, the area must be properly cleaned and primed. If the mural is defaced, peels, fades or is not maintained it will need to be repaired or painted over within 30 days.
  6. Approval Process — Artistic murals require a joint application of the property owner and artist to the City. The application includes the concept for the mural, size and location. The application must be submitted in advance of the mural being installed. Murals inside the Downtown DDB/CRA area will also require approval by Appearance Review Board staff. 

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