The former Orlando Naval Training Center has been redeveloped into a city neighborhood with 6,000 jobs.
The City of Orlando redeveloped the former Orlando Naval Training Center (ONTC) into the award-winning Baldwin Park, a mixed-use redevelopment community. As of 2017, Baldwin Park is nearly complete, with 126 single family homes and 3,436 multifamily units (townhomes, condos, and apartments) built, and 10,300 residents that call the neighborhood home. On the non-residential side, there is over 1.75 million square feet of office space, 261,000 square feet of retail space, 564,000 square feet of hospital/clinic space, an elementary school, a middle school, and an estimated 6,000 employees – five and a half times the civilian jobs lost when the base closed.
The Orange County Property Appraiser estimated that Baldwin Park had a Total Market Value of $1.46 billion, a Total Assessed Value of $1.37 billion, and a Taxable Value of $1.22 billion in 2017. In comparison, all of the properties within the boundaries of the City of Orlando had a market value of $41.46 billion, an assessed value of $36.7 billion, and taxable value of $24.9 billion. So, Baldwin Park represents 3.54 percent of Orlando’s total market value, 3.72 percent of Orlando’s total assessed value, and 4.91 percent of Orlando’s taxable value.
Baldwin Park is graced with beautiful architecture, 250 acres of accessible lakes, and 200 acres of park land in the form of active community parks, neighborhoods parks, and an extensive bike trail system. It is a beautiful neighborhood which fits perfectly within the City of Orlando.
The project was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of Military Base Redevelopment. The master plan for the redevelopment of the ONTC also won the Catherine Brown Award for the Landscape of the New Urbanism from the Congress of the New Urbanism.
From the eve of World War II until the 1990s, the area now known as Baldwin Park was used for military purposes. When the U.S. Army Air Corps arrived in 1940 to set up a training facility off East Colonial Drive, adjacent to the Orlando Municipal Airport (now known as Orlando Executive Airport), Orlando truly became a military town. In December 1966, Under Secretary of the Navy Robert H.B. Baldwin announced that Orlando had been chosen as the site for the country’s third Naval Training Center, after Great Lakes and San Diego. Orlando was chosen for its temperate climate, a good transportation system, sufficient family housing, and availability of the mostly dormant Orlando Air Force Base.
The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended closure of the ONTC, with a loss of nearly 1,100 civilian and contractor positions. The Navy hospital closed in June 1995 and was converted into a Veterans Affairs (VA) Outpatient Clinic. The ONTC included four separate properties, all within the City of Orlando: the 1,093-acre Main Base, most of which is now Baldwin Park; the 826-acre McCoy Annex near Orlando International Airport, a complex of more than 600 single family and duplex homes that was redeveloped as affordable for-sale housing; the 54-acre Herndon Annex, a group of warehouse facilities next to Orlando Executive Airport; and the 46-acre Area C, a group of warehouse and laundry facilities a half mile west of the Main Base.
As the local redevelopment authority, the City of Orlando immediately formed a Base Reuse Commission to create a redevelopment plan. With financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense, the City established and staffed an NTC Base Reuse Office and hired a consulting team to assist in preparing a Base Reuse Plan. The consultants conducted a thorough inventory of the physical, environmental, and economic conditions of the NTC property and the surrounding neighborhoods. They identified the site’s opportunities and constraints and established the goals and objectives for reuse. The process was a community-based, proactive planning effort consisting of four phases: 1) Base Reuse Plan; 2) Business and Development Plan; 3) Urban Design Vision Plan; and 4) selection of a development team. They considered a variety of land use plans and ultimately presented the Base Reuse Commission with a plan based on the principles of New Urbanism–a walkable neighborhood of various-sized homes and apartments with schools, offices, shops, and restaurants. The Commission, made up of over 150 Central Florida business and government leaders, held 174 public meetings over the next two years to get the public’s ideas and feedback on proposed plans.
Upon conclusion of the Commission’s work in 1995, the City of Orlando established a seven-member NTC Advisory Board to guide implementation of the Reuse Plan. More than 100 additional public meetings were held to hear public comment on plan refinements and developer selection. Among the tools used at these public meetings were visual preference surveys that showed attendees different building and community-design options. People were then asked to rate each one. The vision that evolved from these meetings was, “the overwhelming desire to link the property with surrounding neighborhoods, provide public access to lakes, form a network of green throughout the project, create a vibrant main street, and disperse automobile traffic through a gridded street network.”
With a clear vision articulated, the City then sought a development team that understood and could implement the vision. Four nationally recognized development teams were short-listed for simultaneous negotiations. Orlando NTC Partners was a four-member consortium including Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago, Carter & Associates of Atlanta, Atlantic Gulf Communities of South Florida, and the Pritzker family business interests. During this period, City staff joined the four development teams to help improve the quality of the submissions and clarify the community’s objectives. City officials insisted that the speed with which a bidder proposed to get fallow ground on the tax rolls was as important as the actual price they were willing to pay for the land.
In May 1998, after six weeks of proposal evaluation, in-person presentations, and visits to other projects the developers had undertaken, the City chose Orlando NTC Partners (now Baldwin Park Development Company). Consistency with the concept plan, international experience, local sensibility, and the development’s integration with the natural environment were major factors in selecting the team. Perhaps most important, they already had won redevelopment rights to two abandoned military installations in the Chicago area. The Orlando NTC Partners plan proposed 1,900 homes and condominiums, 1,300 apartments, 1.5 million square feet of offices, and 350,000 square feet of shops and restaurants in the village center, for a total value of $500 million over 12 years. Orlando NTC Partners was to pay the City of Orlando $5.8 million for the 1,093-acre Main Base tract, plus another $3.5 million to be put in a trust fund to provide homeless services.
The Navy and the developer would share the estimated $1.7 million cost of removing arsenic-contaminated soil from the old golf course on the property. Beyond that, the Navy and federal government would retain responsibility for soil and groundwater clean-up, while the developer obligated itself to the removal and remediation of the roads and all vertical structures.
The City received the NTC Main Base property from the Navy and transferred it to Orlando NTC Partners, who along with Mayor Glenda Hood renamed the site Baldwin Park in honor of Robert H.B. Baldwin. Six months after the City sold the property to Orlando NTC Partners, demolition began on 4.5 million square feet of buildings. Today, only five buildings from the NTC Main Base remain, including the VA Outpatient Clinic, the U.S. Customs Service, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and the Florida Air National Guard. The rest of the facility was razed with painstaking care to recycle nearly everything that was salvageable. In total, 256 buildings, 200 miles of underground utilities, and 25 miles of roads were dismantled, yielding 600,000 tons of concrete, 80,000 tons of asphalt, and 240,000 tons of lime rock. Many believe that this was the largest single-phase demolition and remediation project in the history of the United States.
The clean concrete rubble was crushed for use in new roadbeds and other projects. About a third of the crushed concrete was used in an exfiltration trench created to improve water quality on the lakes of the property. An area 2,000 feet long and 300 feet across (about the size of 15 football fields) was excavated, lined with permeable fabric, filled with concrete pieces, and topped with soil and grass. The storm water that used to drain directly into Lake Baldwin and Lake Susannah is now filtered through underground systems that serve much the same purpose as a retention pond. Instead of a massive retention pond though, the community got 16 additional acres of park land. The on-site recycling also saved an estimated 30,000 dump truck trips to the landfill. By mid-August 2001, demolition of all buildings was complete. The process had taken 16 months and 400,000 man-hours. The City of Orlando determined that the developer had met all the conditions necessary to designate the site as a “greenfield” property.
Updated October 2017