When I walked into Foundation, The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” was playing in the background. Peter and Alex Cohen, brothers and owners of the shop, lounged on chairs as they chatted with two customers who were flipping through their newest shipment. “We started to sell records on Instagram to fund the other stuff we […]
In exclusive press briefing materials provided to the College Park Community Paper, details confirm long-rumored talk among locals that an exciting new development by Dr. Phillips Inc. is in the works. Plans include “a mix of residential and retail offerings that may include apartments, townhomes, commercial office space, a grocer, coffee shop, brewery, etc.” as well as a “bold plan for urban trails and a new 100-acre public park.” Transportation and infrastructure improvements are also in the plan.
A project of Dr. Phillips Inc. together with the City of Orlando, “The Packing District” is expected to generate an estimated $41 million in economic impact to the city’s general operating budget and create 800 permanent jobs. The project will start construction in 2018 and will mature over the next 10 to 15 years.
Covering a massive 202 acres, The Packing District project will re-purpose historic buildings, “preserving and recapturing a defining part of our community’s history while providing a vibrant base of living and commerce.” One historic building, the former Southern Box Company on OBT (most recently the blue building housing the Habitat for Humanity center) could be revitalized into a lively center for retail and eateries.
Similar large-scale redevelopment projects of this type serve as a pattern for the new district. These include Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis.
The origin of The Packing District name is historic. It references “the citrus related buildings — a packing house, a box plant, a canning plant, and a fruit stand Doc Phillips built starting in the 1920s in the area of Orange Blossom Trail and Princeton Street. The project will revive the look and feel of what was built there nearly a century ago, using many of the same historic buildings for modern uses.”
Even the clean, simple new logo is intended to revive the mid-20th century look and feel of the area. The redevelopment will “enhance the character and preserve the history of this part of Orlando,” according to Dr. Phillips Inc. The return on investment from the project will provide funds used by Dr. Phillips Charities to support its many local philanthropic interests.
Orlando City Commissioner Robert Stuart, whose District 3 encompasses The Packing District, said, “It is important
that this supports the Dr. Phillips charitable initiatives. The money comes right back into our community.”
Stuart, a lifelong College Park resident, also said: “The Packing District is a great name, and this is a great western anchor for College Park. It is a chance to have a local partner like Dr. Phillips that is committed to our community for the long haul [and] whose mission is to be a good land steward and community partner.”
A highlight of The Packing District is the planned 100-plus acres of land being donated by Dr. Phillips Inc. to the city for a public park on the southeast corner of John Young Parkway and Princeton.
Connected to the new commercial and residential development sectors, the new park will be “an urban park serving as a hub for wellness programs, providing a site for park activities, including the city’s tennis center, bike trails, running trails, an amphitheater, and an urban farm,” the documents state. A 10-acre lake will “serve dual purposes of improving water quality and offering a park amenity.”
Donation of the public park portion of the development is expected to receive City of Orlando approval at the upcoming city council meeting Dec. 11.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said: “As a City we are committed to investing in our neighborhoods because our residents deserve more amenities and enhanced infrastructure. This land donation from Dr. Phillips Charities provides us with a unique opportunity to enhance the quality of life for our residents by developing additional recreational options and green space here. Additionally, the City’s planned investment in roads and stormwater infrastructure will help spur future quality, infill private mixed-use development, preventing sprawl and transforming an under-developed industrial area into a vibrant district.”
Dr. Phillips Inc. will fund the design and engineering of the new park and will be “active in the implementation of the improvements,” the press briefing states.
According to Stuart, “We’re excited to help with the park master plan, incorporating elements that the people of the city want in parks, like bike trails.”
Stuart said the city has worked toward relocating its Orlando Tennis Center on Livingston Street with the progress of downtown’s Creative Village and UCF/Valencia campus construction. “Incorporating moving the city tennis center also gives us a great deal more capacity in the new location. The benefits far outweigh the challenges” of a development of this scope.
Dr. Phillips Inc. will also be funding portions of the major road and infrastructure improvements, “contributing an estimated $12–$14 million to the public investment” according to the press briefing. Additionally, private sector investment is expected to “exceed one quarter of a billion dollars and generate over $200 million in projected tax revenue over time.”
New residential development will include both apartments and townhomes. According to the plan, “in order to meet a high demand from young professionals and families who work downtown or in the emerging Creative Village, and empty nesters who want to live in a vibrant in-town neighborhood with incredible amenities a short walk or bike ride away, a portion of The Packing District will include a very nice mix of for rent and for sale residential” properties.
As can be expected with this scope of redevelopment, alterations to traffic patterns and environmental impact improvements are included in the plan. According to Dr. Phillips Inc., “the project is in the early stages of planning and detailed traffic studies have not been completed.” However, expectations are that new bike trails will connect to the current Orlando Urban Trail system to both the north and south.
“Pedestrian friendly cross sections” and improvements to Princeton and OBT traffic patterns — including lane reductions — will reduce large-truck capacity associated with previous industrial use to insulate neighborhoods. According to the project documents, a roundabout at Texas Avenue will also be installed to provide additional traffic calming.
Dr. Phillips Inc. is the modern-day owner of the real estate holdings amassed through the decades by the renowned Phillips family. Philip “Doc” Phillips was a pioneer citrus grower in the 1890s and a visionary in free market commerce and corporate responsibility. Through his forward-thinking business practices and community commitment, the family business earned a respected, worldwide reputation and has become one of Central Florida’s most ardent benefactors in arts, education, youth, health and wellness, and social services.
It was Doc’s son Howard who originally steered the family business into commercial real estate following the sale of the citrus company in the mid-1950s. According to a history brief from Dr. Phillips Inc., Howard “focused on the development of the area surrounding the intersection of Orange Blossom Trail and Princeton Street, which formerly housed the packing plant and other supporting facilities for the citrus business. Howard led the development of the area which came to be known as Fairvilla Industrial Park, the first planned industrial park in Central Florida. It housed facilities for national brands including Nabisco and a 100,000-square foot distribution center for Sears Roebuck. The industrial park also contained private streets and its own water and wastewater systems, which were all operated by the Dr. Phillips Company.”
A history book with glossy photos and narrative about the evolution of the Phillips family legacy will soon be published.