In 2005, Innovation Way was proposed to East Orlando residents. The county had plans to develop a balance between homes, workplaces, a transportation system and green space in a high-tech corridor connecting the University of Central Florida and the Orlando International Airport.
“It was supposed to be a real smart growth concept,” says Suzanne Arnold, the publicity committee chair of the Lake Mary Jane Alliance in Southeast Orange County.
Since its announcement and subsequent planning meetings and visioning studies, the project has been slowed numerous times due to various issues, from land development concerns to road controversies. What’s really the going on with Innovation Way?
One controversy stems from developers asking to expand boundaries of Camino Reale and Innovation Way East, two rural neighborhoods north of Lake Mary Jane on the west of the planned corridor. According to Arnold, the original plan was to have the most development at Innovation Way. Since the initial plans were finalized, Innovation Way has split into two unofficial roads, currently referred to as Innovation Way North and Innovation Way South, in order to possibly accommodate for the Camino Reale and Innovation Way East “neighborhoods,” but both of these properties are outside of the urban service area – an area that already has existing water, sewer and electrical systems in place, according to Arnold.
“They were not part of the original intent when the plan was made, and now they’re both coming in asking for the urban service to be expanded,” says Arnold.
“Every time they expand the border, that means they have to expand the urban services,” she says. “In these times when we have no budget anyway, how can we expand the urban service area?”
Although the majority of residents within the Lake Mary Jane Alliance, which is a group dedicated to protecting the rural area of neighborhoods surrounding Lake Mary Jane, were supporters of a smart growth plan, they don’t support the new plans says Arnold.
“I think a lot of them feel it’s way too premature to be supporting anything beyond this original plan right now, because it’s so extreme,” she says. “Both plans have a lot of development that they want farther down in the areas that were supposed to remain rural.”
Arnold says nobody knew that land between Turkey Creek and the Econ River would see any major developments, but now developers are trying to get this land approved to build on. “If we knew that they wanted to start developing there, we wouldn’t have approved it,” she says.
As for the area of Innovation Way farther east, around the Alafaya Trail and Waterford Lakes areas, the county and land developers are still working on a deal to acquire, zone and finalize the necessary land for the region as Mayor Richard Crotty recently said he will oppose all plans to build more urban service areas.
Many residents of the area are unsure of what the plan exactly is, much less its current status. “You know, I’m not sure what’s going on with Innovation Way or even, what it really is supposed to be,” says Cecily Hernandez, a Waterford Lakes area resident. “Every now and then I hear all talk about it but I don’t really get it; yeah, it’s a corridor focusing on tech jobs and houses, but what else?”
For Hernandez, all she knows is that there is controversy over a road at the end of Alafaya Trail. “Nobody wants to build the road up there until there is business but no businesses want to come until the road is up,” she says. “It’s like when you’re a kid and you’re supposed to save to buy a car but you can’t get a job because you have no way to get there. Something has to give.”
Still, interest and application of the corridor is progressing, slowly. “The county set it up initially with a balance in mind, and that plan I think would have been successful,” says Arnold. “I think there’s still a lot of it that can be successful. They just need to follow the original plan.”
Article by Nicole Lauber