Maitland plaza fills up
640 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland
164 Lake Ave., Maitland
124 Lake Ave., Maitland
The Silly Grape
1720 Fennell Road, Maitland
There’s a lot to be decided in the coming months for the city of Maitland regarding the future redevelopment of its downtown core, but many local business owners have decided not to wait and build now.
From dining to entertainment, to a mix of both, businesses have been popping up across the city bringing new amenities to Maitland.
“Folks are tired of moving around and having to go to Altamonte Springs or Winter Park to get a good meal or buy this or that,” Verl Emrick, director of the Maitland Community Redevelopment Agency, said. “The community has been ready for quite a while now to get these amenities in place and available to them.”
With ongoing talks of redeveloping the city’s entire downtown core, and the planned construction of the Maitland SunRail stop, local business owners said they’ve decided to jump on the train early and open now so they can capitalize on business in the future.
Walking door to door in the Village Plaza at the corner of Lake and Orlando avenues in Maitland, across from the Village at Lake Lily, the sound of power drills and construction workers’ radios echo off the concrete walls.
In the last four months, the president of the property’s management firm, Doug Kinson, said the seven remaining vacancies in the plaza have been filled, giving it 100 percent occupancy. All, he says, will have new businesses up and running in the next three to five months.
“I think the new businesses will indicate, number one, to other property owners that we’ve turned a corner and that if there are remaining vacancies that it won’t be long until that vacancy is absorbed,” Kinson said. “And number two, it’ll be an indication to new developers that Maitland is a good market and it’s time to consider building new buildings and new development at this time.”
In a unit in the back of the plaza, Rory Frazier pages through piles of design plans as workers install light fixtures in what will come to be Jazz Tastings, the area’s newest wine and tapas bar.
Right now appliances and fixtures may be stacked and covered with tarps in the middle of the dining area, but Frazier said that by February, the jazz bar should be up and running.
“The Maitland area is certainly growing, and we felt there was a certain eclectic crowd here that we could cater to,” Frazier said. “…Hopefully we’re going to bring in something unique that Maitland doesn’t have. That’s the goal.”
With a menu of Spanish- and Cajun-influenced tapas and wine pairings to match, along with a live house jazz band, Frazier said he hopes to cater to an upscale audience looking to enjoy good jazz, wine and food.
Next door to him, furniture is stacked wall-to-wall in what will soon open as an antique store, and down one more door is an open space soon to be taken over and reconstructed into a kosher deli.
Down a few more doors and there is more construction to be found. Astrid Jean Paul appears out of a cloud of construction dust to give a tour of what is to be her new juice bar and café, Café Jean Paul.
Set to open by Feb. 1, with her at the stove, she said the café will feature an array of healthy salads, soups, chutneys and New York-style Knish, as well as an organic juice bar with options available for people on all sorts of diet restrictions — from gluten-free to vegan.
“I call this a place of transition,” she said. “We have something for everyone, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, trying to lose weight, or just want to be exposed to healthier eating habits. We want to expose the Maitland community to healthy eating.”
In the middle of all the construction stands a pet health food store, Hounds & Kitties. Owner Kerry Elliot said she’s excited for the traffic all the new businesses will bring to the plaza.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in this plaza in the last six months of so,” she said. “I hope once all the places open we’ll all have a symbiotic relationship and drive traffic to one another.”
The Village Plaza isn’t the only place adding new business — the city is also in talks with developers over the construction of a new CVS Pharmacy, as well as a Dunkin Donuts opening next to ACE Hardware on Orlando Avenue.
A few months shy of a year ago, The Silly Grape — the hybrid sports/wine bar — opened off of Fennell Road in Maitland. Amid the company of Maitland’s corporate corridor, owner Cesar Dacosta said the restaurant caters to the post-work day happy-hour crowd.
“I felt like there was a need in Maitland for a place like this to service all the businesses in the area,” Dacosta said. “I wanted to make this a place where you can come after work in a suit and not feel out of place, but come dressed down and fit in too.”
With the success he’s had in less than a year in Maitland, he’s now hoping to franchise and open more Silly Grape locations both in Maitland and beyond.
SoNapa Grille, now open near the edge of what is to become downtown Maitland off Orlando Avenue, seems to be having similar success, owner Adam Barringer said, the wine bar and restaurant having been open for about a month.
“Our sales have been phenomenal since we opened,” Barringer said. “And the city of Maitland has certainly showed their support for us and the investment that we’ve made in the city…. We hope we’re driving in more people from Winter Park and from surrounding cities to us and to other local businesses.”
Barringer said he’s excited to see how the redevelopment plans for Maitland pan out, and the new business it could fuel in the future.
“I think it’s going to benefit all the business owners in Maitland,” he said. “To take it a step further, if we get SunRail and the SunRail stop, it will all just further enhance the economic vitality of the city.”
SunRail stop and redevelopment talks
Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said the city is currently accepting and screening plans submitted by developers to help make his dreams of a revitalized and redeveloped downtown Maitland a reality.
“The developers are working with us and we’re working with them to achieve both their goals and the city’s goals to have a nice little downtown,” he said.
The proposed redevelopment, he said, can be broken down into three main corridors: the town center area, where the Winn-Dixie and Royal Plaza are currently; the area surrounding the Publix at the corner of George and North Orlando avenues; and the location of the proposed SunRail stop near the old Parker Lumber site to the north.
Steve Brandon, with the development firm Brandon Partners, is assessing plans for redevelopment of the area around the future SunRail station.
“Having the SunRail stop, I think, will put Maitland on the map and have a unifying effect on the community,” Brandon said. “As ridership increases, it will reinvigorate both retail and residential aspects of the city.”
Verl Emrick said all the different aspects of redevelopment, once in progress, will combine to result in a better quality of life for all residents of Maitland.
“As you start different construction projects or openings of new businesses, it gives other potential people who want to do the same the idea that if there’s people out there being successful that they can be too,” he said. “Success breeds success.”