Development in Ivanhoe Village means changes for the neighborhood’s LGBT-owned businesses

By : Scottie Campbell
Comments: 0

Orlando – There was a time when the two gray towers looming over Alden Road had a practical use; a train would pull up alongside and fill the towers with small bits of plastic destined to become shower doors. Now dormant, the twin structure serves as a landmark to travelers using Alden’s brick roadway or the increasingly active thoroughfares of Orange Ave. or Virginia Dr., as well as SunRail passengers.

A mid-century touchstone, symbolic of the eclectic neighborhood that has grown around them, it seems fitting that these two stalwarts are the only recognizable features in the renderings of a new Ivanhoe Village development that will begin in November.

“Change is sometimes good and it’s sometimes bad,” said George Wallace, Executive Director of Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, based on Alden Road. “In this case, I’ll need to see the final product, but I personally think the conceptual drawings I’ve seen of the new property are astounding.”

In a deal that was finalized last year, Real Estate Inverlad Development LLC acquired the Ivanhoe Village property from R-Kid Properties, a family-owned company that owned the property from its industrial heyday to last year. Inverlad’s mixed-use project, currently called The Yard at Ivanhoe Place, will include 600 residential apartments and 45,000 square feet of “neighborhood retail.” The density-focused project, near public transit, with local gathering spaces, The Yard is an urban planners dream, but will likely displace several businesses.

As President of R-Kid Properties, Jane Webster served as matriarch over the warehouse and office space properties her father had collected and, over the past few decades, essentially curated the unique blend of businesses there. Industrial work still happens in Ivanhoe with national brands like Enemy Ink, a custom screen printing factory, and Steadfast Brand, a tattoo-centric clothing company. Several noted artists, such as Chery Bogdanowitsch and Jake Harmeling, have their studios there and a small warehouse has been converted into one of Orlando’s more unique watering holes, The Thirsty Topher.

“I personally enjoyed hanging out in the neighborhood long before this project came up,” said Chance Gordy, Vice President for Inverlad.

He has become the face of the new development. Pointing to its walkability to popular restaurants and shops, Gordy feels the Ivanhoe neighborhood is “unique to Orlando.”
Inverlad has taken a refreshing approach with this development by holding meetings and workshops with residents and business owners. Visitors to can take a survey to express their opinions. Gordy points to an outdoor amphitheater as one addition that resulted from feedback, though Inverlad will continue to face tough questions regarding the increased traffic 600 new households could create. The quiet neighborhoods of Lake Formosa and Park Lake Highland are already experiencing an unwelcome increase in traffic, due to the new Mills Park development, just blocks away from The Yard.

Orlando Fringe has inarguably become an integral part of Orlando’s LGBT community. Wallace reports nearly 30% of surveyed patrons identify as LGBT, not to mention the artists and staff involved.

“Over the years, some of our best-selling shows have been LGBT written, produced and starred openly gay actors,” he said. “The joke on the global Fringe circuit is that we’re known as the ‘Gay Fringe.’”

Hunting for home: George Wallace, Executive Director of Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, is on the hunt for a new headquarters, but first must execute the 2015 festival. Photo by Patrick O’Connor.

Hunting for home: George Wallace, Executive Director of Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, is on the hunt for a new headquarters, but first must execute the 2015 festival. Photo by Patrick O’Connor.

Fringe moved into Ivanhoe Village in October of 2012 from Downtown to be closer to Loch Haven Park, where their annual event occurs. While Inverlad has honored a generous arrangement Fringe had with R-Kid, Wallace said a place for Fringe in The Yard has not been discussed. Though Fringe is looking for new space, the organization must give priority to producing May’s festival, which will attract an estimated 50,000 attendees and generate an economic impact of $1.9 million.

Gordy said that Inverlad has had discussions and is open to discussions with current tenants about transitioning into the new development, but adds it may not be feasible logistically.

For gay owned and operated D Squared Productions, the necessity to move may have a silver lining. Since opening their office on the corner of Alden and Virginia in 2007, the business has grown substantially. Co-owner Rich Kuntz said when they got wind of the redevelopment and possible resulting relocation, they realized an expansion was well overdue.

“Business is business,” said Kuntz of the impending development. “We all know things change.”

Logistics is working in the favor of another gay-owned business, The Venue. Since opening in May 2012, the performance space has established itself as, in Gordy’s words, “a force” both in the neighborhood and Orlando’s cultural landscape. Their 811 Virginia Dr. space will not be involved the initial phase of The Yard project, which is giving Inverlad the opportunity to work with The Venue owner Blue Star and her team to create a tailor-made space, while The Venue continues operations at their current location.

“The change is happening whether we like it or not,” stated Star. “As a business owner I have to make a decision to embrace it. I love the area and want to stay here, we have been offered the opportunity to and I think it is important to take the risk and do so.”

Share this story: