Orlando’s plan to build a sprawling, urban park underneath Interstate 4 took a step forward Monday.
The City Council voted to approve an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation granting the city airspace rights needed to make the park a reality. The FDOT also committed $3.5 million for the project.
City planners hope the so-called “bridge district,” currently dubbed the Under I, will connect the east and west side of Orlando by adding amenities under the Interstate 4 overpass, which has long divided downtown.
“This a wonderful, wonderful idea to bring the east side and west side together with recreational facilities,” said Commissioner Patty Sheehan, whose district includes Lake Eola and many eastside neighborhoods.
A conceptual rendering of the Under I prepared by planners last year depicted basketball and tennis courts, retail, a dog walk, soccer fields, a playground, a performance space and more beneath I-4.
However, construction won’t begin for several years. The city must wait for the I-4 overhaul to elevate the overpass and eliminate embankments currently in the way.
“We hope to get under way with that as soon as possible, but it’s dependent on the progress of the construction of the I-4 Ultimate [project],” Mayor Buddy Dyersaid Monday.
Completion of the $2.3 billion I-4 work is currently expected in 2021.
The $3.5 million FDOT commitment is the first funding to be announced for the project. City spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser confirmed there “is not a definitive estimate” yet for the cost of designing and building the Under I.
Lafser called Monday’s vote an “exciting first step.”
Among the features envisioned for the park are regulation-sized indoor soccer fields, hard courts for basketball and volleyball, a playground and massive sandbox, a pop-up event space, skateboard ramps and picnic areas.
Source: Orlando Sentinel