In 2015, a Chicago developer proposed a 28-story building there. The plan that was criticized by historic preservationists and the St. Luke’s Cathedral, which donated a portion of an acre to the city in 1914, deeded solely for park usage.
That project was eventually dropped.
A land trust launched in October 2019 with the intention of purchasing the 5,000-square-foot property for park space. The idea is to demolish the brick building known today as a 7-Eleven and leave the land open for use as an extension of the park.
The National Trust for Public Land joined with the local group to reach a deal with the property owner that gave the groups 18 months to raise money for the purchase. The Murrell family agreed to reduce the price and if the City Council signs off on the public contribution, the group would have about a year to raise an additional $625,000 needed, said Ted Haddock, president of the land trust’s board.
He said a contribution by the city could prompt others to join the effort even as fundraisers scheduled for the spring were postponed as the coronavirus pandemic brought widespread cancellations of events.
“Even though we love Lake Eola Park and there are so many great things about it, there really isn’t one gateway into it,” Haddock said. “This corner is just the prime spot for it. There are easy access crosswalks, it’s facing the downtown business core.”
Commissioner Patty Sheehan, whose district includes Lake Eola Park, already contributed $50,000, about half of her discretionary budget, toward the effort earlier this year.
“We want them to be successful,” she said.
Under the proposed deal, the money from the Community Redevelopment Agency would kick in if and when The Trust for Public Land closes on the sale and the title would be transferred to the CRA. The land would come with restrictions to be used as park space in perpetuity.
Chatmon said demolishing of the building would allow for a gateway to the park, with landscaping or public art.
But that decision wouldn’t come until the building lease expires in 2023, he said.
“Here you have private sector leaders in our community … who have offered to solicit and obtain private dollars to enhance the public realm,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier with that arrangement.”