“The mind, in proportion as it is cut off from free communication with nature, with revelation, with God, with itself, loses its life, just as the body droops when debarred from the air and the cheering light from heaven.”
For the second time in six months, a downtown Orlando development company has backed away from a plan to build an office tower on the southeast shore of Lake Eola.
Eola Capital LLC, which has its headquarters in a converted house it owns near the downtown lake, withdrew its land-swap proposal Tuesday before elements were to be heard by the city's Municipal Planning Board.
Nearby residents have objected to the company's offer to swap its private land and converted office-homes on the property in return for a slice of the city park farther away from the lake and closer to other large buildings.
"We're going back to the drawing board to try to come up with a solution, to deal with these new concerns," said Jim Gray, a partner in Eola Capital.
The company wants to build its new headquarters near the lake in a mixed-use tower that would have offices and retail, but the company is committed to responding to neighborhood issues, Gray said. "We've been here more than 20 years, and we want to be a good neighbor," he said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said this week in an e-mail to area residents that the city is required by its own laws to maintain or increase park space if any land swap were to be considered, and said "historic elements" of any property would be taken into consideration along with "sound urban planning principles."
Dyer noted that Eola Capital already owns the land adjacent to the lake and has government entitlements that would allow it to demolish the existing structures and build some type of office or mixed-use building. The main issue would be how tall any new building could be.
Eola Capital withdrew its original proposal in April. It had sought permission for a 200-foot-tall building on its private land. Area residents collected petitions and protested at City Hall, saying that the old homes on the Eola Capital land were too historic and too much a part of the city's heritage to be demolished.
Eola Capital countered with the idea of swapping its land for the nearby park land, so that the city could preserve four of the five homes on the site. But area residents continued to object.
City spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh said Tuesday that Eola Capital's decision to withdraw its alternative proposal from the planning board agenda gives the company more time to develop details, and gives the city more time to clear up certain misunderstandings.
She said, for example, that the city fully supports the Orlando Farmers Market, which occupies a portion of the park included in Eola Capital's proposed land swap. Rumors that the city might do away with the open-air market were unfounded, she said.
Jerry W. Jackson can be reached at