Curry Ford West: Orlando’s Newest Main Street

The up-and-coming Curry Ford West area is the city’s newest Main Street District

An up-and-coming stretch of Orlando’s Curry Ford Road, home to a diverse set of coffee shops, eateries and shops, soon will have a unified name and branding — Curry Ford West.

The mile-and-a-half run was ushered in Monday by the Orlando City Council as the city’s second market street, joining the city’s eight named Main Streets, including College Park, Audubon Park, Mills 50 and Thornton Park.

The latest Main Street about three miles southeast of downtown is known for its affordable homes, but many visitors haven’t known what to call the district wedged between SoDo and Conway.

“Most people, they don’t know the place exists,” said Bart Polachek, who owns Swiss House, a clock and watch repair business off Curry Ford Road.

Before he moved his business to the district about three years ago, Swiss House was in College Park. At first, he was a hard sell to buy into the idea, he said, but came to see the benefits of businesses promoting and recommending each other to customers and also organized events bringing new people to the area.

Those perks can be helpful in this neighborhood, which has 188 businesses, according to counts by the Curry Ford West board.

“You can’t get better than word-of-mouth advertising,” he said. “Everybody up and down the street is working together [as a Main Street]. You’re a unified village almost.”

About a year after Swiss House moved into the area, Polachek became involved with a group of residents and business owners trying to bring a Main Street to the area.

The culmination of that effort was announced Sept. 27 by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at the city’s Main Streets Awards, honoring the program’s 10th anniversary.

In that time, the Orlando Main Streets have seen more than $1 billion in public and private investment, according to an Orlando report, with much of it coming from Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, which are located in two of the districts.

Like the others, Curry Ford West will receive $50,000 and a full-time executive director will be hired. What direction Curry Ford West chooses to go, however, remains to be seen.

“Everybody knows that’s a good residential area,” said Pauline Eaton, the city’s Main Streets Administrator. “I think Curry Ford West is going to be one of those ones that kind of ends up morphing organically into what’s that going to be.”

Orlando’s Main Streets have developed unique reputations, which help strengthen the neighborhood commercial districts.

The Audubon Park Garden District is known for its bakeries and front-yard vegetable farms, Mills 50 for its Vietnamese cuisine and eclectic bars and College Park for its bungalows, retail and dining.

Curry Ford West vice president Ben Kuykendall said the district already has a well-rounded food scene, home to places including J.J.’s Fusion Grille, Charlie’s Bakery and Zaza New Cuban Diner, as well as Ocean Sun Brewing and Roque Pub. However, he thinks it lacks a venue for community events.

It also encompasses the burgeoning Hourglass District — named for a nearby lake — that the developers hope to make into a walkable community lush with shopping and food options. That development also will have a brewery.

Kuykendall said being a Main Street could help the area’s visibility.

“I would love to see it known as a place you can get any kind of food,” said Kuykendall, 30. “It’s one of the fastest-changing neighborhoods in Orlando.”

For decades it’s been home to a mix of residents who’ve lived there for generations as well as first-time homeowners. For now, organizers are still trying to find events or signature branding to allow the market to take off.

In College Park, Polachek said it was Dancing on the Drive, Jazz Fest and Holiday on the Drive that helped bring people together in the district, as well as visitors to the stores and restaurants.

“We don’t have a flavor,” Polacheck said. “If we don’t make a name for ourselves and have something unique for ourselves shortly, we’ll have hard time finding that unity.”


Source: “Curry Ford West: Up-and-coming stretch of Orlando is city’s newest Main Street,” Orlando Sentinel