ORLANDO – When the SunRail commuter rail line begins operating, there will be four stops in the city of Orlando.
And at those four rail stations, there’s a heightened belief that the neighborhoods hosting them will benefit from a huge influx of new economic development opportunitites, as businesses rush to get as close to the stations – and the commuters exiting the trains – as possible.
“The train will be coming every 30 minutes,” said Orlando’s transportation policy advisor, Christine Kefauver, during a presentation on Monday before Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council.
The presentation Kefauver gave, titled “SunRail Transit-Oriented Development,” is projecting that the 61-mile rail line will be an enormous boost to the economic health of the city, which took a very hard hit from the collapse of the real estate market.
“There are 17 SunRail stations along the 6,000 acres of land,” she said. “You can see a tremendous amount of economic opportunity along that corridor.”
The SunRail line will run from Debary in Volusia County to downtown Orlando, then continue on to Poinciana. It will make stops at locations in four counties – Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia – with stations at Altamonte Springs, Winter Park, Celebration and downtown Kissimmee.
Those 17 stations, Kefauver predicted, will become strong magnets for new businesses relocating there.
“This is about getting people to work — or places of work that want to be incredibly vital, and which may look to be near SunRail,” she said.
This has been true in other cities that host rail lines, and have seen a boost in the cost of commercial space, office rents, and residential home values within several miles of those stations, she said, including Washington, San Jose, Portland, and Dallas.
Orlando, she added, is well poised to follow in this path.
“I’m proud to say the city of Orlando is far more advanced than other cities, because we’ve been working on it so long,” she said. “The city of Orlando has done a phenomenal job setting us up for success.”
The four stations in Orlando will be at Florida Hospital on Princeton Avenue, the Lynx Central bus terminal, Church Street, and the Orlando Health Building and nearby Amtrak station.
All four stations will be close to businesses and recreational and cultural attractions. The Florida Hospital station, Kefauver noted, is within a short walking distance to Loch Haven Park, which hosts the Orlando Museum of Arts, the Orlando Science Center, the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre, and the Orlando Repertory Theatre.
“We know it’s pretty easy to get people to walk a quarter mile,” she said, adding that SunRail will have the added benefit of bringing people off the roads and making the city more hospitable to pedestrians.
“We want to be far more pedestrian-oriented,” she said.
The neighborhoods hosting the stations are likely to look to become more oriented toward people walking to work, Kefauver said, and noted that when the Florida Hospital station opens, “You’ll see an increase in tree-lined streets there.”
The Lynx station will also be important, she added, because the bus service has gotten more riders in recent years and can transport the train’s commuters to another location in the city off the main rail route.
“Lynx has seen record ridership over the last few years,” she said. “And that station will be the future stop for any interstate rail service that may be started. It’s truly intermodal in nature.”
The bottom line, Kefauver added, is that when these stations open, “You’ll see a true uptick in investment there.”
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