Why Mayor Jerry Demings wants Orange County to resemble Epcot in 2050

County leaders launch study to plan for 30 years from now

Orange County has embarked on an ambitious plan that is designed to determine what the area will look like in the year 2050.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County has embarked on an ambitious plan that is designed to determine what the area will look like in the year 2050.

According to numbers provided by county leaders, the population of Orange County currently stands at 1.4 million people.

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By 2050, they said they expect that number to jump 48% to 2.1 million, and the people who relocate here could be living in neighborhoods inspired by Disney.

“If we are to create the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) envisioned by Walt Disney, it requires smart planning and ongoing consideration of future growth,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said in a video about the project on the county’s website.

“This opportunity to do something so transformative at a local government level happens -- if you’re lucky -- only once in your professional lifetime,” said Alberto Vargas, chief planner for Orange County.

Vargas is leading the initiative called Vision 2050.

As part of the project, he and his team have divided the 1,000 square miles of the county into six market areas.

Orange County leaders have divided the county into six market areas to study for growth in the year 2050. (Courtesy: Orange County)

Some are rural, some are urban, and some are suburban.

With the community’s help, he said they will determine what each area needs to create self-contained communities with affordable housing, employment and transportation.

One of the areas being considering for more housing is located along the International Drive corridor, which is home to many of the county’s tourist attractions.

Vargas said affordable housing in that area would help hospitality workers live closer to where they work, reducing some of the need for transportation.

He said the same model could be used to help workers live closer to their jobs at the University of Central Florida and Orlando International Airport.

“(UCF) continues to have different needs, not only for the students but for everybody who works in and around the research center of that university,” said Vargas. “Professors and employees and everybody – so, it really creates a real community and not necessarily a destination.”

News 6 investigated and found out Orange County has already spent $1 million on consultants for this study, and they’re not the only government agency doing this.

Similar projects are already underway in places like New York City, Las Vegas and Seattle.

In the wake of the coronavirus, Orange County is using virtual town hall meetings to get input from residents in each of the six market areas.

Leaders are also using online surveys to find out what residents think the county should plan for.

“We believe, with the resident’s help and their input, we certainly can get there fairly soon -- at least within the foreseeable future,” said Vargas.

More town hall meetings are scheduled for after the new year, and surveys are online right now.

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.