ORLANDO, Fla. – As Central Florida’s population continues to boom it seems like development is going up everywhere, however, when a developer wanted to build a 28-story building on the same block as Lake Eola, two women, who describe themselves as “little old ladies” decided to stop it.
“Lynn and I are the self-described two little old ladies in Orlando trying to save Lake Eola Park,” said Eugenia Sefcik.
Both Sefcik and Long are fifth-generation Orlandoans.
“We grew up here, we brought our families here,” Long said. “I mean there were cows three blocks from here grazing.”
Both live within walking distance of Lake Eola and support development as they love to see the downtown area grow. However, they just didn’t want development on Lake Eola Park.
“Lynn and I support development downtown we love the vitality of downtown,” Sefcik said. “We have just been opposing the development on Lake Eola Park.”
“I’m very pro-development downtown but not on the lake itself,” Long added.
But both ladies quickly learned the only way they were going to stop the developer who wanted to build a 28-story building on the corner of Rosalind Avenue and Central Boulevard, is to buy the property themselves. So, they went directly to the owner of the 7-Eleven.
“I called him just out of the blue,” Long said. “He had been offered over $5 million dollars for that property on two occasions. He met with his sisters who owned the land with them and he agreed to sell it to us for $3 million dollars.”
The exact amount was $3.2 million, but the pair started with zero.
“So, the land trust was born,” Long said.
Together, the two ladies quickly began raising money to purchase the property and then donate it to the City of Orlando, with a deed restriction that development can not happen on that parcel, creating the Orlando Land Trust.
“The whole purpose of a Land Trust is to preserve green space, but our first mission was to attempt to preserve protect and expand Lake Eola Park,” Long said.
The City of Orlando agreed to pay half of the $3.2 million if the ladies can raise their first million on their own by the end of March 2020.
“Then March 11, everything shut down,” Long added.
They didn’t relent. Both went virtually to community meetings with non-profits, countless neighborhood association meetings, radio shows, door-to-door and even mailing to the masses.
“And March 31 at 8 p.m. we had our million,” Sefcik said with a smile.
The ladies had successfully raised the money needed through the Orlando Land Trust, matched by the City of Orlando. The purchase of the property closed in May of 2021. The Orlando Land Trust donated the parcel to the City of Orlando the next day. An Orlando city spokesperson said once the lease is up at 7-Eleven in 2023 that the building will be demolished and that corner will then be turned into a green space, fitting into the city’s overall master plan and revisioning for Lake Eola.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer praising the ladies’ efforts writing in a statement to News 6:
“I have great respect and gratitude to Lynn and Eugenia for not only their dedicated efforts to secure this key piece of land near our Lake Eola Park, but also for their vision to gift this to the city and allow us to incorporate it into future green space, giving us the opportunity to expand the amenities of our crown jewel park for future generations to come and enjoy,” Mayor Dyer