Church Street District’s dramatic expansion

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This expansion map, which was approved by the City Council in October, shows the three zones of the expansion into Parramore, which will be phased in separately. (Photo courtesy of Church Street District)

The Church Street District has expanded its borders into the Parramore neighborhood. The newly established boundaries of the Main Street District dwarf the two-block boundary it oversaw.

The new borders are broken into two sections divided by I4. To the East is the Downtown Church Street Core; to the West is the Parramore Church Street Core. The Parramore core is much larger than the Downtown core and is broken into three zones.

“In all the internal discussions and things that we’ve had about this, we actually expanded the area more than we had originally talked about doing,” Pauline Eaton said. “The reason why was so it would reflect that vision plan for Parramore.”

The vision plan Eaton was referring to was the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, which aimed to develop methods to revitalize the underserved community. One of the recommendations in the plan was to form a Main Street District in Parramore.

This has been a goal of Orlando Main Streets for years, now, as an original attempt to do so in 2008 was unsuccessful.

The West Side Downtown Merchants Association was turned into a Main Street. Then, the financial crisis peaked that year, and Vendor’s Way, where most of the businesses in the original Parramore Heritage Main Street District were located, was affected economically by the construction of the Amway Center across the street. Vendor’s Way was eventually demolished

So, the Parramore Heritage Main Street District, which was one of the original three districts in Orlando, folded. Since then, Eaton said they have put off re-forming a Parramore Main Street District because there were no requests from community members to do so.

“Main Streets are primarily grassroots organizations. In none of the 10 Main Street Districts that we have right now did the city go out into the districts and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to make you a Main Street.’ That isn’t how it happens. It happens from the ground up. They come to us,” Eaton said.

So, instead of forming a separate Parramore District, Orlando Main Streets elected to expand the neighboring Church Street District’s borders into the Parramore area as well as the Central Business District. Business owners on the board of the district proposed the expansion to Orlando Main Streets.

“We think that these business owners could bring on board fellow business owners from the area,” Eaton said. “It wouldn’t be so much top-down. It’s more of like a mentoring situation where you actually have these other successful business owners that would like to mentor the businesses in Parramore to help them be able to benefit from everything that’s going on in their area right now with all the expansions like Creative Village and the soccer stadium.”

The Parramore side of the district is broken into three zones. Businesses in the area the Church Street District oversees could benefit from many initiatives that Main Streets organize, such as events, grants for façade improvements, business workshops, strengthening relationships between business and community and more.

Orlando Main Streets follows the model of Main Street America, a national program that aims to foster businesses in historic areas. They follow a four-point approach to do so, focusing on organization, promotion, design and economic vitality.

The City of Orlando will be granting the Church Street District an additional $50,000 per year to pay for an associate director to be put on payroll with the district, according to the city council. That associate director will be in charge of the Parramore zones exclusively, while Rosangela Parker, the executive director of the Church Street District, will oversee the district as a whole.

“We really wanted this person to have familiarity and involvement with the Main Street approach,” Parker said. “[He or she] will be overseeing and cultivating relationships with the merchants and stakeholders in the Parramore area.”

Whether Parramore will ever become its own Main Street is just speculation, but we asked Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer about that possibility.

“We’ll see how it grows,” Dyer said. “There’s some benefit to having a combined Main Street. If it appears that they ought to be separated, we’re not adverse to that.”

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