Orange County’s Sustainability Initiative began in 2013 as an effort to plan for the health, happiness and prosperity of future generations, in a way that enhances the quality of life for our residents and global guests. With input from stakeholders within the community, the Orange County Sustainability Plan, Our Home for Life, was drafted in May 2014. The conceptual guide outlines specific incremental and transformative changes for the County through 2040, with interim goals for 2020. Orange County’s $300 million INVEST in Our Home for Life funding supports several policy options to support sustainability in the future.
2017 Online Sustainability Annual Report Launched
Since its inception in 2013, Orange County’s Sustainability Steering Committee has worked to capture all types of data – not only for the sake of real-time assessment, but also to drive future sustainability efforts and projects. The Sustainability Steering Committee represents a broad range of departments and divisions across Orange County Government. From traffic, pollution levels, and energy use to environmental sustainability, affordable and reliable transit, access to education, arts and culture, and a local economy with businesses that explore new technologies, these measures help to assess Orange County's readiness for current and future generations. This year, Orange County presented a new improved online 2017 Sustainability Annual Report. This new online annual report highlights the goals and strategies of the Sustainability Plan, tracks progress, measures target data and outlines the implementation of policies and programs. It also highlights successes and guides residents and visitors on how they can take an active role in sustainable living.
International Drive District Overlay Moved Forward on 2040 Strategic Vision
Recognizing the importance of the International Drive area, Mayor Jacobs invited area stakeholders and landowners to partner with Orange County in developing a shared vision for the area. For more than a year, staff and area stakeholders engaged in discussions regarding current and future opportunities such as improving the pedestrian environment, transit access and convenience, and the importance of parking and open space. From these discussions, the I-Drive 2040 Strategic Vision was developed. The County created the new I-Drive District Overlay Zone code as part of that vision to focus on a development strategy that will transform International Drive into a more walkable and sustainable urban destination. The new overlay will align with transit opportunities and will make it easier for visitors and residents to get around.
The District Overlay takes into account the unique character of the district and encompasses smart regulations that allow for complete streets, improved pedestrian amenities, convenient parking options and open public spaces that will help bring authenticity and identity to the area. In coordination with the Orange County Convention Center Master Plan, the District Overlay provides context-sensitive standards that position the I-Drive District as a world-class destination for years to come.
Orange County Convention Center Master Plan Announced
In an effort to transform International Drive from a tourist focused corridor into a distinct region brimming with arts, culture, entertainment and diverse economic drivers, Orange County selected the I-Drive region as its first integrated, sustainability planned business district. The sustainability approach includes the first use of Orange Code, which preserves the character of existing communities, celebrates Orange County's diversity and creates vibrant places to live, work and relax.
In June, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) executive team provided the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) two Campus Master Plan proposals. After years of market research and collaborating with its Client Advisory Board, plans were announced to expand the North/South building.
In 2015, the OCCC engaged an internationally renowned consultant, Populous, Inc., to assist in completing a Campus Master Plan to identify market-based needs and recommendations for future development. This planning process provided a clear perspective on the needs of current and prospective clients and the OCCC’s competitive position relative to comparable facilities and future market demand. This insight served as guidance for the development of the Campus Master Plan Program. Preliminary recommendations were developed and discussed in forums with the OCCC Client Advisory Board, Convention Center clients, Convention Center District stakeholders, OCCC service partners and staff.
Based on that feedback, the following key priorities were identified: the new Convention Way Grand Concourse, an enclosed connection between the North and South concourses, which will include additional meeting and ballroom space and a new grand entry to the North/South Building along Convention Way; and the addition of a new multipurpose venue, a 200,000-square-foot, flexible, divisible, column-free space with a combination of retractable and floor seating to accommodate between 18,000 to 20,000 guests. This project will also incorporate additional meeting space and connectivity between the North and South concourses.
The projects would vastly improve the OCCC's North/South building and keep the Center of Hospitality relevant and cutting edge in a competitive tradeshow and convention industry. Members of the OCCC's Client Advisory Board attended the Board of County Commissioners meeting and supported both proposals. The proposed projects will give them more reasons to keep their business in Orlando.
The next step is refining design concepts and developing a funding strategy for both projects. Once the projects are approved by the BCC, each project will take just a little more than four years to complete.
A Diverse Environment Created through Community, Arts and Culture
Orange County is also committed to a sustainable, creative and diverse arts and culture community as a driving force in its continued economic development and quality of life. From world class venues to world class performing arts organizations, Mayor Jacobs is dedicated to creating a place where people want to put down roots and participate in the community’s investment in arts and culture. Support for cultural festivals throughout the County continues with Jazz in the Park, Black History, Asian Pacific American and Hispanic Heritage month celebrations. These events highlight and share the diversity of the County and increases unity and cultural awareness in the community.
Holden Heights Improvements Take Shape
As one of the largest community redevelopment and investment projects in Orange County’s history, the Holden Heights improvement initiative is built upon the principle of Sustainability. The more than $35 million capital investment in Holden Heights represents a bold vision to create a sustainable, prosperous and desirable quality of life for area residents.
In 1995, Orange County began its investment in Holden Heights to address environmental and infrastructure deficiencies in Holden Heights. Over the years, Orange County has expanded its vision – from pure infrastructure to a sustainable neighborhood model. Together with partners, the Orange County project now features infrastructure improvements that include sewer, storm water, sidewalks, curbs and road improvements. The final phases of improvements are scheduled to begin construction in early in 2018 for a total of about $4.6 million.
Additionally, Orange County built a 10,500-sqare-foot, state-of-the-art community service center in the heart of Holden Heights to provide services to youth, families and seniors. Holden Heights Community Center programs promote economic self-sufficiency and provide nearly 20 different services, such as computer and GED classes. As a result of these improvements and services, Holden Heights has up-to-date infrastructure, a healthy and clean environment and its citizens now have direct and convenient access to Orange County’s services.
A Livable Community Created through Improved Planning and Sustainable Energy
The planning, design, and aesthetics of buildings, streets, parks, utilities and places where residents live, work and raise families is also vital to the future as a sustainable community. In testament to the commitment, Orange County Government was once again awarded the Gold Level status in Green Local Government by the Florida Green Building Coalition in 2017. Orange County also partnered with several groups to expand the use of residential rooftop solar energy. A new Orange County Solar Co-Op, established in November 2016, is the largest in the country and includes more than 500 members with more than 70 installations of photovoltaic solar systems. Also, as a part of Orange County’s efforts to encourage sustainable development throughout Orange County, Mayor Jacobs hosted awards for green solutions, excellence in project planning and execution and meritorious efforts in sustainable development. Wekiva High School’s Aquaponics STEM Learning Project was awarded the highest honor for Outstanding Contribution to the Community.