Breathing Life Back into the Historic Town of Eatonville

Incorporated in 1887, the Town of Eatonville, Florida is the oldest incorporated African-American municipality in the country.

Building on years of involvement supporting the Town of Eatonville’s health and wellness, the Winter Park Health Foundation determined that the funding of a capacity building program was essential to the community’s economic growth, sustainability, and future. With this goal in mind came the development of The Healthy Eatonville Team, which proposed a partnership with the Town of Eatonville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to assist in creating a Town vision to support a healthy, livable, and workable future for Eatonville’s residents and visitors. The goal of this partnership would revolve around the support of an initiative that would provide substantive and organizational skill-building, partnership development, and strategic planning to the Town during this crucial time.

A Town vision to support a healthy, livable, and workable future for Eatonville’s residents and visitors.

Innovation

The capacity building program was a unique collaboration of public and private entities contracted through the University of Central Florida’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government and included the Town of Eatonville CRA, the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, the Florida Redevelopment Association, and GAI Consultants’ Community Solutions Group (CSG). Partnering with The Healthy Eatonville Team, I worked as an embedded consultant to support community outreach, data gathering, and visioning workshops, as well as coordinated with other regional agencies on projects that could potentially impact the Eatonville community. As a result of successful efforts, the partnership’s initial six-month time period was extended for an additional two months.

Impact on the Eatonville Community

In this rather limited timeframe, we provided professional leadership to help the Town make significant strides on a number of fronts that had languished or been left unaddressed. The results of the collaboration of all entities involved included the following:

  • Five community workshops with over 135 attendees focused on the visioning and input for an updated CRA Plan.
  • Approval of an updated CRA Plan (the original Plan was created in 1997).
  • Development of a CRA budget.
  • Preparation of Request for Proposal (RFP) documents to solicit developers for a 95-acre School Board-owned Hungerford parcel that had sat vacant for over 10 years—seven development teams have responded.
  • Efforts to relocate a Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) stormwater facility to better meet development opportunities on the School Board’s Hungerford site.
  • Recruitment of a high-tech corporate headquarters that will bring 140 jobs to the Eatonville community. This includes the construction of HostDime’s 85,000-square-foot, $18M state-of-the art office building.
  • Construction of a new Hungerford Elementary School, in tandem with the Boys & Girls Club expansion, to begin construction in 2017.
  • Funding and design of West Kennedy Boulevard’s reconstruction, to include bikeways and medians.

Welcoming these development opportunities into Eatonville’s community will positively impact residents and visitors alike.

Funding for Eatonville

This collaborative effort has resulted in the acceleration of certain funding and the creation of new investment opportunities. Specifically, the teamwork has generated the following for the Town of Eatonville:

  • $18M for HostDime, Premier Global Data Centers’ new World Class Data Center and Corporate Office.
  • $17M for a new K-6 Hungerford Elementary School targeted to open in fall of 2018.
  • $2M expansion of the Boys & Girls Club facility slated to open in fall of 2018.
  • $16M for the widening and reconstruction of West Kennedy Boulevard, approved to begin in late 2016.
  • Potential sale and redevelopment of the 95-acre Hungerford site (seven development teams responded to the RFP and more recently responded to the second-phase RFP).

Problem Solving

The entire capacity building program was an effort in problem solving and providing professional, sensitive guidance to an understaffed community. In essence, the project enabled the Town of Eatonville to “sit at the table” with outside entities, e.g., Orange County, Orange County Public Schools, FDOT, Duke Energy, etc., that were making decisions directly impacting their community. The Town’s input was finally being heard—resulting in renewed awareness about how to maintain the program moving forward while preserving the Town’s historic integrity.

Eatonville—Current Status

The HostDime corporate headquarters groundbreaking is scheduled for this fall 2016. Five development teams have been shortlisted to respond to the RFP, prepared by CSG, for an October deadline to develop the 95-acre School Board site. It is anticipated that a development team will be selected before the end of the year—headway that will further solidify the repair of a pressed yet hopeful community.

For questions or additional information about the Town of Eatonville’s development program, contact Senior Director Tom Kohler at 407.423.8398.

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