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City Officials plan to bring flexible event space under Interstate 4 in Downtown Orlando.

Still rendering of The Canopy.
City of Orlando
3D rendering of The Canopy.

More flexibility in Downtown Orlando

The City of Orlando released the latest iteration of what it hopes to be an urban gathering space in downtown Orlando, The Canopy, formerly known as the Under-i project.

The Canopy will occupy 10 acres underneath Interstate 4 in Downtown Orlando between South Hughey Avenue and South Garland Avenue.

It will include bike paths, pedestrian friendly walkways, community gathering space, and immersive art installations.

Also as part of the space, the City plans to pilot a rideshare zone and parking concept in the Central Boulevard and Pine Street area, with construction on the pilot beginning in April and expected to be completed by the summer.

The pilot will consist of about 150 temporary public parking spaces that can be used for ride share services and short term parking.

Map of The Canopy project area
City of Orlando
City of Orlando
Map of The Canopy project area

Marty Hudson, Chief Urban Project Manager in Economic Development for the City of Orlando, says The Canopy is a flexible space that can be used for everything from large festivals to small meetups.

“We wanted it to be able to be many different things as the community needed it to be. This design helps us do that. Whether it's the ability to hold festivals or events, we are designing this so that certain streets can be closed off at times to become festival streets. Even the parking area that's being used for ride sharing stuff is being designed so it can also be a flexible festival space.”

Increased space and activity in downtown Orlando will have a positive impact on small businesses in the area, according to Hudson.

“Even when other things aren't happening downtown, this creates a space that will still bring people into downtown on a nightly basis, which will also help create better opportunities for the business community.”

Rendering of The Canopy area
City of Orlando
City of Orlando
Rendering of The Canopy area

The Canopy is part of the City of Orlando’s larger efforts to diversify downtown, to bring in more local businesses other than bars and nightclubs.

In February 2022, the City launched Project DTO 2.0 focused on, “driving actionable changes to the streets, civic spaces, mobility options, and neighborhoods to promote a thriving downtown.”

Hudson said The Canopy and Project DTO 2.0 are interconnected in many ways, for example the plans for an urban bike trail network.

“The urban bike trail network that's being built downtown actually dissects this Project along Washington Street. We are then integrating an additional 11 blocks into that urban bike trail network into The Canopy itself.”

Additionally, there are plans to make all types of transportation flow easier downtown, according to Hudson.

“We are also making sure that we have a transit hub along Central. This will allow us to not only connect busing services, but also give strategic connection points for things like rideshare, bikes, scooters and other forms of transportation. What we are doing here is bringing all those types of transit uses into one location where you can then have multiple options on how you navigate downtown.”

The majority of the funding for The Canopy will come from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), said Hudson.

“(CRA is) a specific organization that receives funding from the downtown property and business community. Its goal is to reinvest into this space.”

Putting Local in the spotlight

Hudson sees The Canopy as a space where tourists can have a more local experience.

“There is a huge move in the tourism industry to ‘experience local.’ As you grow your local economy and those local businesses, it gives even the tourists the opportunity to take a day out of whatever they may be doing here in Central Florida to experience something local.”

In order to entice more visitors to experience what Orlando’s downtown has to offer, Hudson said you have to create a ‘there’ moment.

“Most of your great downtowns in the United States, or even in other countries, frequently have what we call a ‘there’ moment. It's a place that if you come to town, or you have family that comes to town, where do you take them? What do you show them? We believe that The Canopy is that place, you take them and you show them.”

Projection Light Show

Part of The Canopy Hudson is most excited for people to see is the projection light show.

“What it will be is multiple projection towers that will project onto walls and surfaces. It will also include about 3000 LED lights that will illuminate the space and it will all be synchronized to a show and a musical score.”

The Projection light show is done through computer programming, which Hudson said will help continuously bring people back to The Canopy.

“With a brush of a keystroke, we can refresh the experience and once again, create that flexibility to make it something different over and over again.”

If you’re curious what a projection light show looks like, Hudson said you can see a smaller version at Luminary Green Park in Orlando.

“We do a projection show every night on the giant Orlando sign. So if people haven't experienced that, we invite them out to Luminary Green, and Creative Village, in downtown to experience what some of these technologies do and what it looks like.”

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to Central Florida Public Media. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. While at UCF, she was an intern for Central Florida’s public affairs show, Intersection. She joined on as Morning Edition Host in 2019. In 2022, Ms. Blake was appointed to the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalist’s board of directors.
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