What pandemic? Downtown Orlando sees boom in residential high-rise construction

Thousands of new residents could call downtown sector home

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, downtown Orlando is seeing a construction boom on residential high-rises and there are more on the drawing board.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite the coronavirus pandemic, downtown Orlando is seeing a construction boom on residential high-rises and there are more on the drawing board.

The City of Orlando told News 6 there were more than 18,000 people already living in the downtown sector and thousands more could be relocating there.

“It just invigorates a downtown. It brings people here 24-7 and 365,” Thomas Chatmon said.

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As executive director for Orlando’s Downtown Development Board, he said the reason for all of this new residential construction boils down to simple economics.

He said the latest reports show 93% of the existing downtown condos and apartments are occupied.

Even with an average rent of $1,699, according to the website Rent Café, Chatmon said the city feels the demand for more units.

“We want a walkable downtown. We want a grocery store. We want movie theaters. We want restaurants. We want parks. We want open spaces,” Chatmon said.

News 6 investigated and according to city records, there are currently five major high-rise residential projects under construction in the downtown sector, which will add an estimated 2,378 units to the area.

There are also 10 more projects that are on the drawing board, which, if approved, could add 2,729 additional units.

Magnolia would be built at the corner of Magnolia Ave. and Robinson Street. (Courtesy: City of Orlando)

Those proposals include Magnolia, which would be built at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Robinson Street.

Zoi House, or 389 North, would be built on a corner lot directly south of the Orange County Courthouse. It is proposed to be a condo-hotel hybrid.

Zoi House, or 384 North, would be build at the corner of Livingston and North Orange Avenue, across from the Orange County Courthouse. (Courtesy: City of Orlando)

But even before any of those projects break ground, there are already growing pains.

For example, there’s only one grocery store in the downtown area – the Publix by Lake Eola.

“We are working with other grocery store owners, operators, companies, who are looking throughout the downtown area,” Chatmon said. “There is some interest.”

Chatmon said there’s a lot of focus for a new grocery store in the north quarter of downtown.

“That area, I think, is R-I-P-E – ripe -- for more amenities, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that’s where you see the next grocery store go,” Chatmon said.

“I definitely think it’s way too much too soon,” said David Brandt, a resident of downtown Orlando.

Brandt said he lives next to another proposed project, where developers want to build a senior-living high-rise on a narrow section of land on East Jackson Street.

It would be called Mariposa Groves.

“It didn’t seem to fit the area and it, more so, didn’t seem to fit the long-term land-use plans that were set forth for the site,” he said.

Brandt said he and many of his neighbors fear the new building would be too close to their high-rise.

“All of the garbage and refuse services are going to be directly below the balconies,” he said. “It’s going to be very noisy, very disruptive at all times of day.”

They’ve even launched an online petition urging the City of Orlando to say no to the project.

“We don’t overlook that,” Chatmon said. “We understand that some people have some issues with that, and we try to mitigate that between developers and the community as appropriate when we can.”

Orlando city commissioners will take up the final reading of an ordinance change on the Mariposa Groves project at their meeting on Dec. 7.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.