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Reviewing the Plan of Baldwin Park: A New Urbanist Development in Orlando, Florida 2009/12/08

Posted by cknabel in Uncategorized.
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Baldwin Park is a traditional neighborhood development located in Orlando, Florida, only twenty minutes from downtown. The 1,100 acres were originally used by the Army Air Corps as part of the Orlando Army Air Base and later became the Pinecaste/McCoy Air Force Base. The Orlando Naval Training Center was commissioned in 1968 and remained on the site through 1993, when Base Realignment and Closure Commission ordered it, along with many other military installations across the country, to close.

The center officially closed on March 31st, 1995, thus beginning the elaborate redevelopment process. A preliminary base reuse plan, prepared by the City of Orlando in 1994, encouraged community involvement in identifying possible alternative uses for the site.  Business and development plans were also prepared to estimate the cost of demolition, the impact on the city’s services and revenues, and the cost of new infrastructure. Finally, the Urban Design Vision Plan created a set of design guidelines based on community input and expectations, laying the framework for implementation. Incorporating the community voice in development decisions is ideal in creating Developments of Regional Impact that accommodate the needs and desires of the existing community.

With the concept plan completed in 1997, the next step was to select a development team. Four development-design teams had been short-listed for the project and in 1998 the City of Orlando chose the proposal by Orlando NTC Partners with a design by Skidmore Owings Merrill.  This proposal was based on the team’s consistency with the community vision, experience, and integration with the natural environment. The next step involved acquisition of the 1,100 acres from the Navy. Orlando City Council voted to purchase the property and sell it to Orlando NTC Partners on October 27, 1999. The agreement required the City to pay 1.2 million dollars to the Navy, with 75 percent of the price paid by Orlando NTC Partners. The developer was also required to pay 3.5 million dollars to a local Homeless Provider trust fund (City of Orlando, 2005). The development team selected for this project was a good choice because their qualities suggested the use of smart-growth principles and emphasis on sustainability, which proved to be a valuable asset to the development, and the community as a whole, in the end product.

By selling the land to the developer, responsibility to identify and remediate all of the environmental concerns found on the site was no longer the city’s burden but that of Orlando NTC Partners. The project became “one of the largest demolition projects in the nation’s history” (Urban Land Institute, 2008). Not only were the buildings contaminated with lead paint and asbestos, but the soil contained high amounts of arsenic and petroleum. Demolition of the 4.5 million square feet of buildings, 25 miles of roads, and 200 miles of underground utilities created over 750,000 tons of concrete and masonry materials to be crushed on site. By recycling the materials and reusing them for base materials for streets and water filtration systems, approximately 30,000 dump truck trips to a landfill were eliminated (Mernard, 2009).  Site remediation was completed in August 2001.

After the intense environmental remediation, a high priority was placed on retaining the natural environment in the development. Baldwin Park Development Company (formerly Orlando NTC Partners) partnered with the Audubon Society to recreate a natural ecosystem around the 250 acres of lakes located on the site. Rather than developing the lake’s shore for real estate, the lakefront property was incorporated into a park system integrated throughout the development. By connecting the two large lakes and replacing non-native plants with native ones, the water quality and environmental sustainability increased dramatically. The remediation and environmental approaches taken in this project successfully turned the “environmentally stressed brownfield site into a thriving, green, sustainable neighborhood” (Mernard, 2009), setting a good example for future developments of this scale.

The plan evolved over time to become a truly mixed use development that promotes connectivity and community. The 32 entrances and grid patter reduces traffic and promotes natural traffic flow and interconnectivity with the surrounding neighborhood street networks. The development includes forty acres of a mixed use town center, 250 acres of lakes, and 200 acres of parks. Developers believe that the neighborhood appeals to two residential markets: suburbians hoping to relocate close to downtown Orlando and urban residents who are looking for a larger house without leaving the convenience of the city. The traditional architecture, range of home-types, abundance of open park space, and convenience to retail and jobs has brought the development many awards from notable organizations such as the Congress for New Urbanism, Urban Land Institute, and the Environmental Protection Agency. This community has clearly been a national example of how an environmentally stressed brownfield site can be revamped into a thriving green community. The 10,000 residents who have chosen Baldwin Park as their home, 70 businesses who work out of Baldwin Park and 45 retail owners to operate in its Town Center contribute to the communities continuing success. The amenities offered are utilized not only by residents themselves, but those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods often come to walk their dog or play in the park. The development surely serves as a meaningful example of how to intelligently develop a large mixed use site with the support of the existing community.

Sources:

City of Orlando. (2005). Orlando Naval Training Center Redevelopment. Retrieved from City Planning: http://www.cityoforlando.net/planning/ntc/ntchome.htm

Mernard, J. (2009, 2 12). Baldwin Park. Retrieved from New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places: http://www.cnu.org/node/2660

Urban Land Institute. (2008). Baldwin Park. Retrieved from ULI Development Case Studies: http://casestudies.uli.org/Profile.aspx?j=8157&p=5&c=8

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