Downtown's Development

Orlando's original city hall was demolished as part of the filming of the movie Lethal Weapon 3. Bill Frederick, then-mayor of Orlando, had a small role in the movie.

The Plaza at Solaire has been downtown Orlando's largest redevelopment project. It features two office-condo towers, a movie theater, a residential condominium tower, and a bevy of shops and boutiques.

Orlando's Paramore neighborhood has fallen under hard times in recent years, but a recent push by the city to build a new events arena in the area may bring new life back into this downtrodden neighborhood.

Developing a downtown culture

The Plaza at Solaire was downtown Orlando's largest redevelopment projec. The three-tower Plaza replaced a low-rise commercial building with a new movie theater, two office towers, restaurants, shops and condiminiums.

This slideshow will showcase some of downtown Orlando's development during the last century and a half.

Although downtown Orlando now has all of the luxuries of a modern, metropolitan city, including tall buildings, public transportation, parks and other entertainment venues, the area was once part of Florida’s wild frontier. The area’s first residents arrived in the 1830s, when the military established Fort Gatlin on the north shore of Lake Gatlin, just south of present-day downtown Orlando, to help in the fight against the Seminole Indians. Although the fort no longer stands, a historical marker now marks the spot where it once stood.

Although the City of Orlando was founded in 1875, the story behind its name still remains a mystery. According to one legend, a soldier named Orlando Reeves was sleeping on the banks of Lake Eola in the 1830s, when he awoke to a Seminole Indian ambush. Fortunately for his unit, This plaque marks the spot where soldier Orlando Reeves was killed during the Second Seminole Indian War. Local legend says that Reeves is the namesake for the City of Orlando.he was able to warn them of the attack before he was killed. Although there is no evidence to support Reeves’ story, many local historians believe this to be the most accurate source of the name “Orlando.” Today, another historical marker marks where Reeves is allegedly buried.

Another account argues that the city is named after Orland Savage Rees, a landowner from South Carolina who also owned large tracts of land in Central Florida. Again, there is no substantial evidence to support this account.

The city quickly became the The Plaza at Solaire was downtown Orlando's largest redevelopment projec. The three-tower Plaza replaced a low-rise commercial building with a new movie theater, two office towers, restaurants, shops and condiminiums.area's leading district for commerce and travel. The railroad arrived in the 1880s, which brought the area’s first tourists, who admired the area’s many lakes and pleasant weather. Downtown Orlando was also home to every type of shop and craftsman the early settlers would need to survive. A few years later, the area’s first bank would open on Church Street.

The city paved its first streets in the early years of the 20th century, and installed its first street lights in the 1920s. Automobiles quickly became the most popular mode of transportation as upper and middle class white citizens began moving farther away from the downtown district. Soon, the businesses would follow, and by the 1960s and 70s, the department stores that once lined Orange Avenue had closed, leaving behind empty storefronts and aging buildings.

Varying development trends also took their toll on downtown Orlando during this time. The Federal Government constructed Interstate 4 through the middle of downtown, cutting off the historically black Paramore neighborhood from the central business district along Orange Avenue. Orlando's historically black Paramore neighborhood was cut off from the rest of downtown with the construction of Interstate 4. The area has seen much neglect since then, but attempts to build a new arena in the area may revitalize this culturally-valueable area. Federal Urban Renewal programs leveled historic buildings, which were never replaced.

However, downtown’s decline may be over. Starting in the late 1990s, the area saw a resurgence of new construction, particularly of apartment and condominium buildings on both sides of I-4. The area has also seen a renewed commercial front, with new shops and boutiques opening up downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods like Thornton Park, Eola Heights, Colonialtown and Paramore.