ORLANDO – It should be considered the gateway to Orlando, at least for visitors who fly into Orlando International Airport and rent a car there for their Central Florida vacation.
To get into other parts of the city, those visitors typically take State Road 436, also known as Semoran Boulevard. But while this commercial strip may be the first thing visitors see, more than a few city residents think Semoran Boulevard needs a serious makeover.
That fix may be on the way. Orlando has received a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to enhance the Semoran Boulevard corridor, a grant heartily welcomed by Orlando City Councilor Tony Ortiz, whose district includes this highway.
“We’re getting another grant from the Department of Transportation for $1.2 million to go to the revitalization of the Semoran corridor,” he said. “We have been talking about this since I was elected.”
That was in 2008. Since then, Ortiz said, he’s worked hard with business organizations on Semoran Boulevard to find ways to make the corridor more appealing.
“We have made great strides,” Ortiz said.
The grant will be used for the Semoran Boulevard Sidewalk and Streetscape Improvement project, which consists of widening sidewalks, upgrading crosswalks at signalized intersections and upgrades to the ADA ramps. These changes are expected to boost pedestrian safety. Doing that, and making the corridor more appealing visually, is expected to help revitalize it economically, making Semoran Boulevard a more attractive local for new business expansion.
The project extends from Curry Ford Road to Colonial Drive along Semoran Boulevard, and construction is expected to last 12 months, starting in the fall of 2012.
Ortiz called Semoran Boulevard the “the main gate of our region,” and one that should be a corridor that the entire city is proud of.
“As we continue to revitalize this area, we will boost opportunities to attract investment that, in turn, will create much needed jobs and increased property values for our residents,” he said.
The construction of the Semoran Boulevard Sidewalk and Streetscape Improvement project is a goal outlined in the Semoran Boulevard Vision Plan, which Ortiz helped develop. It’s a long-term guide for future development and improvements in the area. The overall vision plan area covers Semoran Boulevard from Grant Street to Banco Popular on the north side of the 408 Expressway.
Ortiz’s fellow city councilors said they strongly support this long-term project.
“It’s great to see more good things happening on the Semoran Boulevard corridor,” said Councilor Phil Diamond.
Councilor Robert F. Stuart said he also supports the revitalization work going on throughout the Semoran Boulevard corridor, and added, “We’ll continue to make that area a strong part of the community.”
Semoran Boulevard is a northwest-southeast beltway running from U.S. 441 in Apopka through Altamonte Springs in Seminole County, to the Beachline Expressway near OIA. It was constructed in the late 1960s.
On its web site, the City of Orlando notes that its Semoran Vision Plan is long range, and a response to both positive and negative changes along this corridor in the past decade.
As the web site notes, the corridor “has experienced significant changes during the past decade. Neighborhoods surrounding this corridor have taken on an increasingly Hispanic or Latino character, while at the same time maintaining the strong values and home ownership that have always existed in this part of Orlando. Changes to the businesses and properties within the commercial district have been both positive and negative.”
While some national chains like Pizza Hut, Arby’s, Winn-Dixie and Wendy’s have moved out, the city’s web site notes, there have been some vibrant new latin-themed businesses that have replaced them, including the Oh! Que Bueno, Bravo! and Las Americas supermarkets, and La Tortilleria restaurant.
But the site also notes that “some of the properties within the corridor have fallen into disrepair, while others have become the home of businesses that detract from the character of the area. Crime has become a problem in some parts of the corridor.”
Contact us at Freelineorlando@Gmail.com.