Residents offer input on downtown Ocoee
OCOEE It was Pete Sechler, of GAI Consultants, who summed up the significance of the Ocoee community coming together March 14 for a public meeting on the future of the city’s downtown.
“The cities that I’ve worked in that have really renewed themselves, rediscovered themselves, there was a specific moment in time where everybody came together to start thinking in a longer-range, higher-altitude way about their community and what they really value,” said Sechler. “There’s a process to do the plan, and you have to work out the implementation and the funding, build things — but it always starts with one particular moment in time. And I think tonight is that moment for Ocoee.”
GAI Consultants was hired to lead the way on the State Road 429 joint plan between Winter Garden and Ocoee, and a key focus point of the plan is on the revitalization of downtown Ocoee.
Sechler gave a presentation on the West Orange area, demonstrating how things have dramatically changed in the past 20 years and how they will rapidly continue to change. But he offered few comments on what he thought should happen in Ocoee. The residents were given that say.
People at different tables were given a large map of Ocoee and red, green and blue dots to place in various areas of the map — identifying parts of Ocoee that could use improvement, places that are good and ideas for what could make Ocoee better.
Most residents agreed that Starke Lake and the waterfront area of downtown is a desirable location upon which the city should capitalize. Many expressed support for the West Orange Trail running through downtown Ocoee and offered suggestions such as splash pads, dog parks, playgrounds, more locally owned restaurants and stores and wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
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What should stay in downtown Ocoee?
“We need to maintain historic buildings on Oakland Avenue and McKey Street, like the historic fire department and City Hall. We could make those little museums like in Winter Garden.”
Cathie Starn, Lifelong Ocoee resident
What do you want to see happen in downtown Ocoee?
“I like to bike right on the West Orange Trail. I live over in the Hammocks, and so to get to the West Orange Trail, I have to ride through city streets … I think (Oakland Avenue) would be a nice area for the trail to go through, because then they would have little businesses where you can stop.”
Elaine Neidl, 24-year Ocoee resident
What can be improved in downtown Ocoee?
“As we put down our red dots, we noticed that almost every entry point to get to the lake and the areas that we do like, you have to go through some very depressed areas. Some of them are homes and some ... businesses that are ... aesthetically displeasing.”
John Pelkey, 13-year Ocoee resident
What do you want to see come to Ocoee?
“A bike trail connecting both Winter Garden and Ocoee together. We need more restaurants, preferably downtown. … (We want) a dog park and a splash pad.”
Theresa Nachtsheim, 32-year Ocoee resident
What should downtown Ocoee become?
“We really need a sidewalk refreshment program, additional street lighting. The sidewalks need to be rebuilt and widened, especially along over by the school, because of the number of kids that are traveling on both sides of street. We need better lighting out there on those streets. We’re a residential community basically. We should direct our energies to that, to provide the services that we can within our little boundaries.”
Rob McKey, 26-year Ocoee resident