PARK

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - ry­gille­spie@ or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

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.”

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