Orlando leaders see promise in new ideas for Fashion Square Mall

ORLANDO, Fla. – After failed attempts in the past, the owner of the Fashion Square Mall has officially submitted an application to the Orlando City Municipal Planning Board to revitalize the once thriving mall. Commissioner Robert Stuart believes it’s a plan that after many failed attempts, could actually stick.

“We have seen eight or ten plans over the last 15 years, so we actually have somebody who (has) a pretty solid plan and have some money behind it,” Stuart said on Wednesday.

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The attorney for Bancorp, along with architects with Baker Barrios, applied to redevelop the mall into a mixed-use property that will be constructed in three phases. The overall plan will include keeping anchor stores at the mall, like Floor and Decor and Macy’s, but getting rid of other big names like J.C. Penney and Dillard’s. According to the plan, the middle structure of the mall itself will be demolished and re-built to bring in outdoor commercial space, along with a 120-room hotel and ultimately up to 1,400 residential apartment units after Phase 4, with 400 marketplace units built in Phase 1.

“This is a good plan, it has mixed-use, it’s going to create a Winter Park Village feel to it which will attract people,” Stuart said. “We have a glut of people who need housing and we don’t have enough housing to accomplish that task. It would be marketplace housing at the same time we are going to look at additional hosing that could be affordable housing.”

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Those plans will be worked out throughout the next several months, but more housing of any kind is the mission of Orlando YIMBY, which stands for “Yes, in my back yard,” as explained by the group’s co-chair Austin Valle.

“We are excited to see housing is built into part of it, that’s really what we want to see, mixed-use where you are living, shopping, working in the same area,” Valle said. “We do wish it was more transit-oriented, more walkable. There is a lot of parking there, it’s still car-oriented.”

Which is why an important part of this project, as explained by Stuart, is this plan includes a connecting pedestrian and bike trail that will go through the property, connecting Cady Way and Urban Bike Trials.

“We need access, we need people to get through there and you’ve got a trail that’s ideal,” Stuart said. “If you do that, you will get Baldwin Park, Winter Park, and get there without using their car.”

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“This is in the right direction. If you think about what it does, it connects shopping and retail to folks who live in Baldwin Park right on that trail,” Valle said. “I couldn’t believe it came together, we will see when they break it all down. It’s been a long time coming.”

The plan was just submitted to the Orlando Municipal Planning Board, which means Stuart said it could take up to 4 to 6 months before the Orlando City Council gets it for final approval.

“This is one that actually has some bite to it and some money to actually do it,” Stuart said. “The process begins now. It will go through evaluation and go through the planning board and then come to us after some pubic meetings.”

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