Elements of Urbanism: Orlando

January 15, 2009 28 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A brief tour around the urban core of a city that is often overshadowed by its notorious theme parks: Orlando.

Tale of the Tape:

Orlando 2007: 227,907 (City); 2,032,496 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1875)

Jacksonville Pop. 2007: 805,605 (City); 1,300,823 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Orlando (52,367)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2007)

Orlando: +23.59%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

County Population (2007 estimate)

Orange County: 1,066,113
Duval County: 837,964

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Orlando: 1,157,431 (ranked 35 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)


Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Orlando: 2,554.0
Jacksonville: 2,149.2


City Population Growth from 2000 to 2007

Orlando: +41,956
Jacksonville: +69,988


Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Orlando: Orange County Convention Center (1983 - Phase 1) - 2,200,000 square feet (2nd largest in country)
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet


Tallest Building:

Orlando: SunTrust Center - 441 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies:

Orlando: Darden Restaurants (415)
Jacksonville: CSX (261), Fidelity National Financial (435), Fidelity National Information Services (481)


Urban infill obstacles:

Orlando: Interstate 4 forms a pretty solid barrier between Downtown and Parramore.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Orlando: A five block stretch of Orange Avenue, Church Street, Wall Street.
Jacksonville: East Bay Street, located between Main Street and Liberty Street.  This four block stretch is home to four bars and clubs.


Common Downtown Albatross:

Too many surface parking lots


Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Orlando: 98 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com



Central Business District

The central business district is the most recognized and urban region of downtown. It consist mostly of high-rises with an occasional skyscraper and contains many nightclubs and bars including Wall St. Plaza, Lizzie McCormack's, Big Belly Brewery, Antigua, Mako's, The Lodge, Rhythm & Flow, Independent Bar, and The Social. There are a number of office towers, including offices for Bank of America, SouthTrust Bank, Wachovia and just announced ItsYourSale.com nationwide realty co. SunTrust Center and City Commons are two large multi-building office complexes within the CBD. SunTrust Center includes SunTrust Tower and Lincoln Plaza, along with several parking garages and smaller office buildings. CityCommons includes CNL Centers I and II, City Hall, and a large parking garage.

This area is by far the busiest and is encountering intense development, some of which include the 400' 55 West on Church Street, The Vue a 426' condo development is the second tallest in the city, Tradition Towers, twin 415 ft buildings just west of Lake Eola, and PremierTrade Plaza, a large mixed-use development consisting of two office towers and a residential tower, called Solaire. A 12-screen movie theater is planned as well.





Orange Avenue (Downtown)

The main route through downtown is Orange Avenue, a one-way street on which traffic flows to the south. It is known by locals for its nightlife and for the tall office buildings that dot the roadway.





Uptown is very similar to the Central Business District but is still developing a character. It has much open space left for an area of downtown, yet has high aspirations too. With, among other things, the significant planned retail space, Uptown is expected to drastically change its skyline from the current three under 300' buildings. Lake Ivanhoe at the North has a significant gay community with several nightclubs and a number of antique shops which is increasing every year.





The area is located just west of the Central Business district. The area was once a thriving neighborhood, but through years of neglect, crime, and a haven for the homeless it has suffered economically and historically. Yet through the efforts of the city, the residents and business community the area is going through a slow, but greatly needed transformation. The Parramore area was established in the 1800s as the hub of Orlando's African American community.

It is significantly residential, with a large number of high intensity entertainment and office institutions such as the Amway Arena, Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, US Federal Courthouse, Florida A&M Univ School of Law, state buildings and Police Headquarters. Smaller businesses in this low-rent area include small grocery stores, barber shops, a few ethnic restaurants, auto parts and industrial.




Lake Eola

Lake Eola Park is a popular city park located in the eastern area of Downtown Orlando. The park could be considered Orlando's "Central Park" due to its central location, historical significance, and a frequent venue for local events and festivals. The park's most iconic and historical landmark is the Lake Eola Fountain that resides in the center of Lake Eola and is permanently embedded to the lake bottom with concrete beams. The scenic fountain is illuminated nightly with green lighting within the fountain dome. In addition to the fountain, the park features swan boat rentals and an amphitheater that has been a host to many events, including the annual Orlando Shakespeare festival. One of the most popular events held at the park is the annual Independence Day firework show that takes place every 4th of July. A 0.85-mile recreational pathway circles the park, and leads to a children's playground.


Thornton Park

Located just east of Lake Eola, Thornton Park is Orlando's most popular urban neighborhood.  It is characterized by oak-shaded brick streets and historic bungalows mixed with a modern urban commercial district connecting it to downtown.




Unique Orlando

- University of Central Florida is the second largest university in Florida and has the 6th largest enrollment in the nation.

- The Orlando region attracts an estimated 52 million tourist a year.

- Orlando has the second largest number of hotel rooms in the country after Las Vegas, NV.

- Orlando was originally known as Jernigan.

- Orlando was a part of Mosquito County until it was divided in 1845.

- Orlando ranks 8th in the nation for traffic congestion.

 Pedestrian Friendly Urban Core Commercial Districts



VI-MI District

A thriving Vietnamese quarter called "Little Vietnam" exists in the Colonialtown district of Orlando, Florida. The neighborhood has become a landmark in the city of Orlando and consist of a countless, and always growing, number of restaurants, groceries, and Vietnamese professional offices that serve the local Vietnamese community with everything from taxes to medical and dental care. Stores supply Asian pop-culture to the community in the form of karaoke bars, Boba tea shops, Vietnamese video and music shops, and stores featuring candies and collectibles from across Asia. The heart of the district is the intersection of East Colonial Drive/HWY50 and Mills Ave, also known as the "Vi-Mi" district.

The Orlando Vietnamese community has its roots in war refugees seeking a new life in America after the fall of Saigon. Notable pro-democracy activists, such as Thuong Nguyen Foshee, who was just recently released from prison in Vietnam, call Orlando their home.





College Park

College Park is a distinct neighborhood within the city of Orlando, Florida, deriving its name from the many streets within its bounds that were named for institutions of higher learning like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. Its close proximity to downtown has made it a popular residential area for over a century, particularly amongst young professionals. According to the 2000 census, most residents are of working age (between 18 and 49) and are homeowners. 65.5% of households include no children.




Antiques District

Just north of Downtown off of Orange Ave (Orlando's main drag outside of the touristy areas) and across from Lake Ivanhoe is the Orlando Antique District.


Winter Park

Winter Park was founded as a resort destination by wealthy New England industrialists before the turn of the 20th century. It is recognized as the first centrally planned community in Florida; its main street includes not only public civic buildings and retail, but also art galleries, a private liberal arts college, museums, a park, a train station, a golf course country club, a historic cemetery, and a beach and boat launch.


Although outside of Downtown Winter Park, this Walgreen's is a good example of a suburban big box store that embraces the sidewalk.


SoDo Urban Infill Development

South of Downtown Orlando (SODO) is a new infill mixed use development at S Orange Avenue & Grant Street. Current tenants include SuperTarget, TJ Maxx and 24-Hour Fitness.  The addition of Sodo expands the revitalization of Downtown Orlando southward transforming an industrial block into a thriving, urban activity center. Sodo is an example of an infill project that seamlessly integrates marquee retailers, alongside luxury residential, office space, and restaurants.

For more information: http://www.sodo-orlando.com/about-sodo/


Article by Ennis Davis