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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Country’s oldest billboard: “Buffalo Bill billboard from 1878 restored”

Country’s oldest billboard: “Buffalo Bill billboard from 1878 restored”

Photo: The Associated Press

“An 1878 billboard promoting a ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody stage show has been restored, five years after it was discovered beneath the crumbling brick facade of a former hotel.

The 24-by-10-foot paper billboard had been pasted to an unfinished exterior wall of the hotel during construction 129 years ago and was sandwiched in by brick when the building was completed.

The billboard, a montage of the Wild West folk hero and scenes from his show, was revealed when part of the wall fell away from the building in June 2002.

‘It’s a miracle that it even exists,’ said Dr. Juti Winchester, curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo.

Printed from engraved wood blocks, the billboard resembles a watercolor painting in hues of orange, brown and blue. A multicolor, life-size depiction of the bearded Cody—clad in fringed buckskin and holding a rifle—is of particular importance, said Winchester, who traveled to western New York for Saturday’s unveiling of the finished work…

Crews would put up the billboards to advertise the shows. Most were pasted over when the next show hit town.

‘The only reason this survived was a completely unique set of circumstances,’ said Michael Flaxman, who was involved in the restoration, which was funded by a $52,000 federal grant and matching private donations.

Experts used tissue paper and steam to remove the fragile billboard in strips and shreds from the wood sheathing. Though protected from the elements, the paper had become brittle and torn and some pieces disintegrated before they could be removed.

Paper conservator Laura Schell was hired to piece back together the work, and images of Cody—in one scene atop a horse and swinging his hat overhead—painstakingly emerged.

‘She cleaned and stabilized all these hundreds of pieces of what was a giant, very fragile jigsaw puzzle,’ said Pat Anzideo, the restoration’s project manager. ‘She put it back together again, without the benefit of a picture.’

The billboard will be displayed under glass in six wood-framed panels, each 7 feet high and at least 4 feet wide, at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, a restored 1920s vaudeville and movie house in downtown Jamestown.

–The Associated Press

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