Baldwin Park: A Community in the 'Teenage Years’

Contributing writer Mimi Simmons has a passion for how design shapes a community and how its physical infrastructure stands the test of time — or doesn’t.

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  • | 9:00 a.m. January 1, 2024
Properly selected, installed and maintained plants can last many years.
Properly selected, installed and maintained plants can last many years.
Photo courtesy of Mimi Simmons
  • Baldwin Park Living
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As an architect and prior chair of the Baldwin Park HOA Architectural Review Committee, I have a passion for how design shapes a community and how its physical infrastructure stands the test of time — or doesn’t.

Community Design Basics

You might have read my recent article, “Baldwin Park: A Stunning Successful Example of New Urbanism,” (Baldwin Park Magazine, October 2023), where I walk through the basic concepts of new town planning upon which redevelopment of our former U.S. Navy base was founded. If not, you might want to find that back issue or search online to catch up.

Is the Idea of Baldwin Park Ultimately Sustainable? 

Because most of the homes and commercial buildings here were built during the same 10- to 15-year period, it appears our initially successful example of a New Town is especially vulnerable to decline in the form of concurrent aging. Or as Strong Towns, a 501(c)3 nonprofit advocate for safe, livable and inviting cities, said in its early assessment titled, “Baldwin Park: A Test of New Urbanism”: “Like any master-planned development, Baldwin Park is at risk because of the uniform ‘newness’ of its buildings, which over time is going to transform into uniform ‘oldness.’”

Howdy Neighbor

I recently had a conversation with Bobby Livera. He is an original Baldwin Park homeowner and co-owner of Baldwin Park Realty, the corner store real-estate office located at Lake Baldwin Lane and Meeting Place. Because of his longtime-resident status and hyperlocal business perspective, he has kept an eye on the curb appeal of both individual properties and the community as a whole.

It’s Awkward

Livera likens Baldwin Park to a person in their teenage years (yes, I stole his line for my headline) with perhaps a few pimples and greasy hair.  

“We are not young enough to have the shiny sheen of newness and not old enough to be historic,” he says. “We are in the in-between years requiring extra attention to keep the freshness fresh.” 

Nothing Lasts Forever

Indeed, old, tired and awkwardly overgrown landscaping is a common reason why my company, Mimi Simmons Design, is contacted by homeowners here. When landscape elements have been neglected over a long period or have gone without proper maintenance, it can be too much of a challenge to bring them back to optimal life. 

“Some people think that plants should last forever, but in the context of a front yard in Baldwin, they most likely do not,” Livera says.

More Reasons for Refresh

Even with the best of care, some want to put their own mark on the place they call home — a pollinator-friendly annual bed, a line of blooming shrubs, a trellis with a fragrant vine, a new paint color, exterior lighting or address numbers. A lifestyle change, such as a new addition to the family (child, pet or parent), can occur, prompting a new fence, pool or room addition. Other top incentives for modifications including HOA Covenants Violations and functional issues such as site drainage will be addressed in future articles. 

Some plants fare better than others in certain placements.
Photo courtesy of Mimi Simmons

Intention is Key

To guide inevitable change, the professionals who planned Baldwin Park drafted a declaration of their design intent for the community called Baldwin Park Residential Design Guidelines. This 11-inch-by-17-inch printed booklet (also available electronically through the HOA’s resident’s portal or city of Orlando’s website) lays out the structure of Baldwin Park neighborhoods, categorizes residential lot types and home styles, and delineates design details, requirements and restrictions. 

A Phone Call Away

Since the founding of the community, various additional policies have been set forth by the Residential Owners Association to amend the guidelines. It makes sense to be familiar with these documents or at a minimum ensure that the professionals improving your property have a working knowledge of them. A call to the HOA office is a great way to start.

A Word of Caution

If you are a Baldwin Park homeowner and are thinking it’s time to make a change, there is something else you need to know. Before you start planting, removing, or painting, please read this carefully: Every single change to your home exterior or property requires approval by the HOA. Specifically, each change requires an application to be reviewed and approved by ARC prior to the change. 

Timing is of the Essence

Be sure to plan ahead. For instance, if you want your new landscape to be installed in March, be aware that it takes time to create a design plan and draft an application. Once the application is submitted to ARC, it might take up to eight weeks to get a spot on their agenda, especially during peak seasons. Especially if your project is connected with a potential home sale or other deadline, start the process at least two to three months in advance.

It Takes a Community

We all play a role in maintaining the community we live, work and play in. In Baldwin Park, that could require extra knowledge and effort, but in the end we might make it into “young adulthood” more gracefully.

Mimi Simmons is the owner of Mimi Simmons Design.


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