Dr. Phillips Unveils College Park Packing District Plans

Dr. Phillips unveils massive College Park Packing District development plans

College Park, Orlando’s oldest suburb, is getting a new neighbor called “The Packing District”. The city and Dr. Phillips Inc. plan to transform more than 200 acres west of College Park over the next decade into an eclectic mix of homes and businesses with a new regional park just north of downtown Orlando. Warehouses and other buildings could be converted into restaurants, shops, or office space in the College Park Packing District.

The project centers on an industrial area at Orange Blossom Trail and Princeton Street. Its name is an homage to the canning and packing plant that citrus magnate Dr. Philip Phillips built there in the 1930s.

As a first step, yesterday the City Council considered a pact with the nonprofit to give the city 104 acres along John Young Parkway for a public park to be used as a wellness hub that will house the City’s new tennis center, bike and running trails, and an urban farm.

City Council unanimously voted at Monday’s City Council meeting to accept the gifted land from Dr. Phillips Charities, who will also be investing $12-14 million in transportation and infrastructure improvements.

Kenneth Robinson, Dr. Phillips’ president and CEO, said the project’s vision emerged from discussions with nearby residents, who stressed the need to limit commuter traffic, make roads more pedestrian friendly, and recognize College Park’s history.

“We don’t think of ourselves as developers, but more as community builders,” he said. “A developer is here today and gone tomorrow. A community builder is someone who’s here forever.”

In an interview at City Hall on Tuesday, Robinson couldn’t say how much of the district’s 84 mixed-use acres will be residential versus commercial. However, he said an important element of its design will be renovating buildings to serve new functions.

As an example, he showed a mock-up of a warehouse with its walls removed and windows added to create a space for a mix of dining and shopping, not unlike Audubon Park’s East End Market.

The district would also reshape nearby roads. Renderings showed a narrower Orange Blossom Trail and Princeton Street, lined with on-street parking, landscaping and bike lanes.

Kevin Edmonds, deputy chief administrator for the city, called it a “transformational project.”

“It’s doing great things,” he said. “It’s more parks, more trails, more bike paths.”

Development has been a sore spot recently for some residents of College Park, created in the 1920s as Orlando’s first suburb. The Princeton, an apartment complex under construction near Edgewater Drive and Princeton Street, prompted organized opposition from locals.

However, two College Park residents who helped lead that resistance, Aaron Powell and Mary Travis, expressed optimism about The College Park Packing District.

“I haven’t seen any of the mock-ups of it, but overall it sounds pretty interesting,” Powell said. “It sounds like they’re tying to pay some homage to the past, and the idea is to have a truly mixed-use district.”

Travis said Dr. Phillips has done a better job of communicating with residents than The Princeton’s developers, though she said there has still been concern in online neighborhood forums about the possibility of more development bringing traffic to the area.

Robinson said the project has been designed to with traffic in mind. For example, it calls for a traffic circle at Texas and Princeton, meant to prompt large trucks to choose a different route, rather than driving through College Park. Truck traffic has been a common gripe among residents since the late 1980s, when Silver Star Road was realigned to link with Princeton Street.

The park will sit near Princeton Street and John Young Parkway, southwest of the rest of the district. The area is currently wetlands, and plans call for 16 tennis courts, two mixed-use athletic fields, a lawn for events and a network of walking trails. A large pond will be dug to handle runoff.

Chris McCullion, city chief financial officer, said estimates suggest The Packing District will bring in $151 million in new tax revenue over 25 years, which he said “makes good financial sense.”

Dr. Phillips is unusual among charities in that it owns real estate and generates its revenue from rental properties, including the warehouses on the land where The College Park Packing District will eventually be built.

“We certainly want to be cautious to keep the tenants there that are there until the point when it’s time to develop because the rent they pay is what allows us to do good things in the community,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018 and last through the next 10-15 years. The expected economic impact is $41 million. That includes building the park; relocating the Orlando Tennis Centre, which is moving from downtown to make way for the Creative Village; and revamping the area’s roadways and stormwater system.

Other newly announced aspects of the College Park Packing District development plan include:

  • community space for yoga or the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra
  • a connection between John Rivers and East End Market with the new urban farm project


Sources: “Dr. Phillips unveils 200-acre project near College Park with park, shops, homes,” Orlando Sentinel; “MORE PLANS RELEASED FOR THE PACKING DISTRICT,” Bungalower