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Photo: Rendering courtesy of GAI Consultants - A proposed transformation of Maitland's Independence Lane would feature wider sidewalks, a park and mixed-use development.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jul. 7, 2016 3 years ago

Maitland downtown plan takes grander shape

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Master plan makeover
by: Sarah Wilson Staff Writer

Wide sidewalks, windowed storefronts and arching shade trees line Independence Lane. The “festival street” weaves its way from George Avenue all the way down to Lake Lily, with offshoots of bike trails and the pedestrian-friendly roadway weaving from a bustling park by City Hall down to the lakefront.

That could be the future of downtown Maitland, said Blake Drury, director of planning and urban design for GAI Consultants Community Solutions Group, the firm tasked with updating Maitland’s downtown master plan for the first time in more than a decade.

Residents got their first view of the new master plan draft in a meeting in City Hall last week. Drury painted a picture of a downtown focused primarily on a business-fronted Independence Lane, and connecting the road south to Lake Lily and west to the Maitland Art Center and Lake Sybelia.

“Lake Lily is a fantastic anchor that brings people to the south end,” Drury said. “But there’s not really anything up on this end of downtown to get someone here. So there’s a need for another anchor.”

That anchor, he visions, is an active park next to city hall, which is currently a parking lot. The draft master plan suggests the park be a destination, with a splash pad, room for a stage for events, a pavilion, or maybe an ice cream shop.

“There’s some fantastic trees [on the old city hall lot], but it could be so much more,” he said.

Across Horatio Avenue from the park on the existing city-owned parking lot, the plan visions a garage with public parking. Running up and down Maitland Avenue, there is a multi-use path for bikers and pedestrians to make their way through downtown without a car. U.S. Highway 17-92 serves as an access point, not a main street, for downtown retail and business. On Independence Lane, there are art installations provided by the Maitland Art Center, providing a visual connection to the cultural and historical district near Lake Sybelia with downtown.

A physical connection, drawing people from the Art & History Museums – Maitland into the downtown district, Drury said, is important too.

“Connecting that to downtown and vice versa is a really important part of what we think the future of downtown can and should be,” he said.

Maitland’s CRA Manager Charles Rudd said the new master plan refreshes an out-of-date plan last updated more than a decade ago.

“It’s kind of a tweaking of the existing plan, seeing what we need to improve on, what we haven’t followed through on, and what we need to change,” Rudd said.

The previous plan had city hall sat smack-dab in the middle of Horatio Avenue, with a town-square type feel surrounding it. Instead today, the new city hall sits towering over the now-empty old Winn-Dixie lot at the corner of Independence Lane and Packwood Avenue. A $68 million mixed-use development, Maitland City Centre, will soon rise from that empty dirt to the east. Those shifts alone, Rudd said, required a major reimagining of how the city’s downtown should be structured.

Tweaking of the plan will continue throughout July, Rudd said, with the draft heading to Maitland’s city boards for approval starting in August. He said the City Council will likely review the plan, along with comments from the boards, in September. Citizens can offer their input by contacting Rudd or attending one of the upcoming master plan workshops next week. A full schedule of related events is available at http://bit.ly/MasterPlanMaitland

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