Did you hear? The City of Orlando wants to build a park underneath Interstate 4. Construction is expected to begin on “Under-i” once the Ultimate I4 project is completed a few years from now (?) and will feature a soccer pitch, basketball courts, and a splash pad, along with plenty of space for socializing (concept video HERE).
It sounds nice, but it’s a bad idea for downtown Orlando.
We’re still the worst city in the country when it comes to pedestrian safety: Its true (story HERE), we cannot honestly say that we’re doing a good job keeping our walkers safe right now. So what are we going to do? We’re going to stick a park underneath one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Florida, in the middle of downtown next to the nightclub district, and then we’re going to invite people to spend time in the area. We absolutely cannot begin this project until pedestrian safety gets better.
Orlando Police will have a challenge keeping the park safe at night: Take the heavy traffic and nightclub element from the last post and make it worse. Now, introduce intoxicated partygoers and potential troublemakers and provide them with a space underneath downtown that can’t easily be patrolled in the dark around 2am. We’ve seen problems with attacks around Lake Eola at night (story HERE). We’ll see more of it here and OPD will have to provide more support to keep it safe.
We really need the parking: Now more than ever, we’re missing that parking space that existed underneath I4. Parking downtown has been bad for ages and when we’ve got events bumping at the Performing Arts Center, Amway Center, Exploria Stadium, and Camping World Stadium, occasionally occurring at the same time going simultaneously, it’s a nightmare. My solution is to build more parking spaces and to put this project somewhere else.
I believe firmly that Orlando is one of the best places in the country to raise a family and they deserve great recreational areas. Unfortunately, underneath an expressway in the middle of a dangerous area is not the place to do it. You want to make downtown better? Give us more affordable parking near locations where it’s needed. We must allow pragmatism to prevail over showmanship this time.