Orlando Placemaking: Adaptive reuse as “building owners weigh preservation vs demolition”

Orlando Placemaking: Adaptive reuse as “building owners weigh preservation vs demolition”

Photo: Richard Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel

“Church Street Exchange, Grand Avenue Elementary and the former home of the Orlando Ballet are the latest Orlando landmarks to face the prospect of new identities instead of demolition.

The fate of those buildings comes into play as some developers and owners are looking at ‘adaptive reuse,’a movement gaining momentum nationally.

‘I think people are finally realizing that these kind of place-making buildings, you really can’t re-create,’said Richard Forbes, historic preservation officer for Orlando.

Sitting atop some of the most valuable land in Central Florida, the Church Street Exchange in downtown Orlando was recently listed for sale. Grand Avenue Elementary southwest of downtown sits vacant with school officials discussing its fate. And the Orlando Utilities Commission has started weighing options to sell or renovate an Italian Palazzo Revival-style 1920s power plant and one-time arts center overlooking Lake Ivanhoe…

Beyond preserving the charm and character of a building, reused buildings help ignite nearby neighborhoods, said Orlando attorney Kimberly Ashby. She pointed to the former Orange County Courthouse’s renovation as a history museum and the relocation of the Casa Feliz and Capen houses to become cultural venues in Winter Park.

‘It not only repurposes the building, it repurposes the neighborhood and the whole community,’she said.”


Photo: Orange County Regional History Center

“The First National Bank building (left) was designed by Orlando architect Howard M. Reynolds during the Great Depression. In 2017, a Walgreens store moved into the four-story building that once housed the downtown bank….”

–Mary Shanklin, Orlando Sentinel

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New job title in Orange County: “Beautification Technician”

New job title in Orange County: “Beautification Technician”

Photos: Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel

“Little things add up, said Ramil Celestin as he plucked a beer carton, a plastic grocery bag and a french fry box off the center lane of Pine Hills Road.

He chucked the trash into the back of a county van stacked with illegal road-side signs that shouted: ‘JUNK CARS’ and ‘DELETE YOUR BAD CREDIT.’ He had snatched up those signs, too.

‘Little things can add up to good, they can add up to bad,’ said Celestin, 57, who has worked for about a year as a ‘beautification technician,’ a title created for the job by Michelle Owens, executive director of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District.

She will address the Orange County commission…on progress in Pine Hills, one of the county’s largest communities and a place fighting to wipe away the stains of crime and blight.

‘We have a lot of exciting things that are beginning to gel in Pine Hills and, going forward, this is all going to have a huge impact on what people think of when they think of Pine Hills,’ Owens said.

Celestin believes he is making a difference in Pine Hills, where he earns $18 an hour to pick up litter and remove ‘snipe’ advertising signs. He usually works three or four mornings a week.

Celestin, also the CEO of a janitorial business, said he picks up enough trash and litter from the roads and sidewalks of Pine Hills in two mornings to fill up a dumpster.

Ramil Celestin dispose of trash he picked up in Pine Hills as part of the community’s effort to improve its image. He works mornings three or four days under the title ‘beautification technician’ and collects enough garbage in two mornings to fill a Dumpster.

‘It was really filthy, really nasty,’ Celestin said, recalling his first week picking up soda cans, cigarette packages, lottery tickets and fast food litter.

His work is a never-ending chore as a street which he cleans Friday is often trashy again by Monday.

‘But I do my best,’ Celestin said.

The tax-supported improvement district also gave ‘trash grabbers’ to some neighborhood businesses to help them tidy their store fronts.

One shop then chose to hire a homeless man to pick up litter in their parking area every week, Owens said…”
–Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel

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Technology: E-Ink Signs   “The medium is the message as Sydney installs electronic traffic signs”

Technology: E-Ink Signs “The medium is the message as Sydney installs electronic traffic signs”

Photo: Visionect

“Where I live, the sign tells me that there’s no parking between midnight and 7 a.m. on the 1st to the 16th of the month, except for November to March when there is. No wonder the bulk of the parking tickets I get are from misreading the signs. Then there’s the visual clutter. They are just ugly.

That’s why these new electronic street signs that were installed in Sydney, Australia, are so interesting. They are made with E-Ink, the stuff of Kindles and Nooks, which is readable in sunlight and uses 99 percent less power than LEDs. That’s because it is ‘bi-stable’ — it only consumes power when it’s changing from one color to the other, as if you were flipping a coin. It’s also reflective, not pumping out light like an LED does. So once the sign is set, it holds that message until it’s changed.

Changing signs is expensive. According to Visionect, the company that built the Sydney signs, Los Angeles spent $9.5 million putting up 558,000 temporary parking restriction signs in a single year, ‘a strain on staff and resources that can be reduced by implementing permanent e-paper signs with content easily customizable via cellular networks.’

The signs are not being used everywhere yet; the company told The Register that “the technology came about through staff who saw the potential of e-reader technology to display real time information about clearways to manage traffic flows during special events.” It’s still too expensive to use for every parking sign, which is a shame; they could do so much more.

I’m reminded of Steve Martin’s wonderful movie, ‘L.A. Story,’ where the road signs offer all kinds of useful advice. This could be a start of a whole wonderful new world of urban interaction and communication.”

— Lloyd Alter, MMN