Big changes are coming to one of the area’s most dynamic communities
The city of Maitland has a lot going for it. Gorgeous neighborhoods, great schools, cultural venues, and a strong sense of community pride. But in the years ahead, city officials plan to address one thing they say is lacking: A well-defined downtown.
“You’re going to have a place where people meet face-to-face,” says Charles Rudd, manager of the city’s community redevelopment agency.
At the heart of it all will be Maitland City Centre, a $68 million development that will include apartments, shops, offices, and restaurants. The project broke ground last summer and is expected to be completed in early- to mid-2018.
Maitland has traditionally been an automobile-oriented town, Charles says. What city officials envision is a downtown area where you can easily walk from one shop or restaurant or bar to another.
“It’s a great place to live, a very charming community,” Charles says of Maitland today. “This development is going to add to that charm.”
Maitland began as an outpost for the citrus trade. But a marketing plan commissioned by the city notes that as the metro area has grown, “Maitland has struggled to define itself as a destination.” Some residents feel they need to go elsewhere for entertainment options, according to the report by Arnett Muldrow, a South Carolina-based planning firm. The firm, which has helped other cities develop a unique brand, spent about six months studying Maitland’s needs.
“What we heard over and over from residents is that they want an opportunity to gather as a community, where they can grab dinner and drink a glass of wine after work,” says Ben Muldrow, a partner with the firm.
What Ben’s firm envisions is a “connected ecosystem,” he says.
Charles says that Maitland’s absence of a historical downtown district is a positive as the city learns from the challenges of communities with established downtown corridors and applies those lessons learned to its own planning of its downtown core.While cities such as Mount Dora and Sanford can boast about historic neighborhoods, what Maitland has going for it is a clean slate to create an exciting place to live and work.
“Our downtown is not going to be a historic place, with 100-year-old buildings. But it’s going to be new, it’s going to be urban,” says Charles.
The report revealed a number of positive surprises, like the degree to which Maitland has transformed from a bedroom community to a workplace hotspot. The city’s population was around 17,000 at last count but balloons up to 42,000 each day as workers commute into Maitland.
Among the specific recommendations of the marketing report and the city’s master plan:
• A downtown that is pedestrian-friendly, that is supported by strong neighborhoods, and that embraces the arts.
• Active spaces outside of existing parks that allow informal gathering and are dog-friendly.
• Using Independence Lane as a corridor for various festivals.
City officials estimate it will take five to ten years to turn this vision into a reality.
Of course, downtown is not the only place where Maitland is growing. Developers recently announced plans to build a =$60 million mixed-use development on about 96 acres west of Maitland Avenue on the north side of Maitland Boulevard. This is one of the last large undeveloped pieces of land in the city. The first phase of that project, called Town Maitland, will consist of 350 townhomes and apartments with shared courtyards and a British West Indies theme, a representative of the project says. Groundbreaking is scheduled for January.
Also in the works is Maitland West, a two-phase, 38-acre development near RDV Sportsplex that will include 315 apartments, an office building, a grocery store, a sporting goods store, and restaurants.
To complement these developments, a strongly defined downtown will help the entire city, not just the immediate vicinity, Charles says. The new downtown Maitland will also help spur redevelopment of the 17-92 corridor, areas of which have remained stagnant while beautiful neighborhoods have blossomed nearby.
“Just cleaning up that one last piece benefits the whole community,” says Charles.
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