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Baldwin Park Then and Now

The story told through the eyes of a longtime resident

Jim Schirtzinger may be the only resident of Baldwin Park who has lived on the property two times – separated by more than 45 years! Jim was stationed at The Orlando Air Force Base from 1966 to 1967, before it became the Naval Training Center and well before Baldwin Park was conceived in 1999. On New Year's Day in 2004, he moved from Columbus, Ohio (where the temperature was 21 below zero) to Harbor Park and never looked back.

Attracted mainly by the New Urbanism approach the developer had chosen, Jim loved what he saw.

In the mid-1990s, the City of Orlando faced the closure of the 1,100-acre Naval Training Center, two miles from downtown. The easiest reuse option for the land would have included big box stores, an office park, and/or suburban housing pods.

Instead, the city took the unprecedented step of striving for walkable neighborhoods with a mixed-use town center. Orlando held a national competition for a plan and developer—and the teams included top New Urbanist designers.

The first buildings of Baldwin Park broke ground in 2003. “It feels like a real place, integrated into the community—people see it as an extension of Orlando,” says Dean Grandin, the city planning director and a resident of the community. “The vegetation grows quickly here—we have a fairly mature tree canopy and it looks like it has been here a long time.”

For six decades, the area had a fence around it. The training center impeded the flow of people from downtown to areas in northeast Orlando. A primary goal was to connect the urban fabric—but not with a single big artery. Instead, the planners laid out a network of streets with one lane in each direction. The streets are all designed for walking and biking.

“Now that the Naval Training Center is gone, the fabric of the community has been knit together,” says Grandin. “We have something like 27 connections to the outside street network. You can get to different neighborhoods surrounding Baldwin Park.”

Housing diversity was another goal. Baldwin Park has large and small single-family homes, townhouses, stacked flats, apartments (some over retail), and accessory units in close proximity. “It’s considered upper-income neighborhood, but lots of folks on fairly restricted incomes, in modest units, are living side by side with people of higher income,” says Grandin. “The income diversity is fairly high, although we would have liked to have done more.”