Orlando is adapting a hybrid park concept used in big cities like New York and Toronto to turn the downtown bridges under Interstate 4 into a unifying community space.

The plan includes a series of public parks, two soccer pitches, a basketball court, splash pad and event space under the four new bridges that will be built through downtown during the I-4 Ultimate Improvement Project.

The “Under I” will bridge the division that has separated the traditional black and white neighborhoods in downtown.

“Orlando has lacked connectivity as one downtown,” said Cassandra Lafser, spokesperson for the mayor’s office. “The Under I will unite downtown from Lake Eola to Parramore and erase the dividing line that has separated downtown.”

The name is a working title and may be changed, Lafser said.

The Under i will not be built until 2022, after the I-4 construction is completed. It is modeled after parks like the High Line in New York City and Project: Under Gardiner in Toronto.

City Planner Doug Metzger said Orlando’s project will be unique in the way it will unite the two downtowns. It will span five city blocks from Church to Washington streets – the most active part of downtown Orlando.

The public-private park partnership will be funded with $3 million from the City of Orlando and $4 million from the Florida Department of Transportation, said Metzger, who has been working on the concept for six years. The remainder of the money will be raised from corporate sponsorships.

Metzger will spend 2018 on infrastructure design and by 2019 determine how much money will be needed to complete the project.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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