Unpacking the history of Orlando’s new Packing District

New Cannery Apartments, YMCA and more set to open in 2022

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Hidden behind the tree lines of John Young Parkway and Princeton Street is construction happening on 200 acres of land owned by Dr. Phillip’s Corporation and Foundation.

It’s all going to be revitalized into Orlando’s new Packing District.

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“This was built by Dr. Phillips in the 1920s,” said Ken Robinson, Dr. Phillip’s CEO and president, standing inside an empty industrial building, soon to be food hall. “So, this is one of the three main locations he did citrus packing throughout Central Florida. This is homage to Dr. Phillips’ history.”

The abandoned building right along Orange Blossom Trail was once used to crate and ship citrus, but will soon be turned into a food hall, event space and microbrewery. This area made up parts of Dr. Phillips’ citrus industry, as he was one the largest citrus producers in the world. His citrus enterprise spanned several counties with more than 5,000 acres of citrus groves and two packing houses, according to a release from the Dr. Phillips organization.

“There is great history here. He bought this property in the 1920s and it was just a cypress swamp, but we had 200 acres and there has been so much that has happened but it’s time to now make it a better purpose for this community,” Robinson said.

So, within the next several years, this industrial part of Orlando will soon be an entirely new neighborhood. The packing district includes 202 acres of land, 84 acres of which will be developed and converted.

About 105 acres will also be turned into a new regional park. That park is set to open in 2022, with a new YMCA, pavilion, urban farm, 3.2 miles of trails, relocation of 16 historic tennis courts and eventually townhomes.

“The Packing District is made up of so many different things,” Robinson said.

At the corner of Princeton and OBT, crews are putting the final touches on what’s going to be The Cannery Apartments. The multi-family housing will include 307 units, with 60 already pre-leased at market rate.

“As we’re sitting here looking at the property and we are looking at the buildings getting older, (the question) was, ‘What’s the highest and best use and what can we do for the benefit of the community?’” Robinson added. “Or do we just sell it and sell it to somebody from New York and let them have it? And we really wanted to keep it locally-focused and community-focused.”