The Parramore community, consisting of three separate neighborhoods: Lake Dot, Callahan and Holden/Parramore, was established in the 1880s by Orlando’s fourth mayor, James B. Parramore as a place to “house the blacks employed in the households of white Orlandoans.”
The area was bordered to the east by Division Street, a street that marked the line where African-Americans were not allowed to cross after sundown during the Jim Crow era and currently divides some of the city’s most prosperous areas from its lower-income neighborhoods.
For 60 years, it grew into a thriving black community with 18,000 residents and streets lined with vibrant schools, theaters, local shops, family-owned restaurants and hotels. Residents were civically engaged and invested.
Between the 1950s and 1960s, with a civil unrest permeating throughout the nation, a change was occurring in Orlando as well. The city was growing, new roadways were needed; Interstate 4 was built, cutting Parramore off further from the rest of Central Florida and causing the community to crumble. Long-time locals moved. It quickly became one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in metropolitan Orlando.
Folks called for change. In 2000, Mayor Glenda Hood pushed residents to get behind efforts to resuscitate the Parramore neighborhood. She proposed supporting suggested green spaces and redevelopment and promised that Parramore’s black heritage could be preserved even in light of these new developments. Some residents rallied behind the renewed interest in the neighborhood, but most were worried the community would again fall victim to empty promises and prosperity benefiting others.
In 2015, Orlando’s city council approved the Ten Big ideas plan, an initiative to cut crime, add jobs, create healthier food options and focus on education. Of these “Big Ten” ideas, several have been completed or are in the works.
One year removed from the Big Ten plan’s approval, Orlando City Soccer Stadium construction was completed in the Parramore community. Mayor Buddy Dyer held a community meeting prior to the stadium’s completion, promising residents that the stadium would improve Parramore. By allowing the estimated 150 residents to ask questions and voice their concerns, the mayor’s transparency and cooperative approach led to an Opening Day match on Feb. 24, 2017.
Just last year, in 2017, the first community school in over 40 years opened in the neighborhood and not unlike any new venture, its first year has been full of turbulence but the new principal is hoping to work out the kinks and really ACE their next review.
The Parramore Farmers Market — home to Black Bee Honey, local artists and artisans, and local produce — is set to reopen on Jan. 5, 2019. And as of yesterday, the city council approved plans to build 415 affordable housing units in the area.
While Parramore has yet to be restored to its former glory days, a plan is in place and ideas are being implemented; much like a plant needs water and sunlight to grow, communities need time, love and attention too.
Follow along this week as we continue our conversations on the arrival of the UCF and Valencia College downtown campus and talk to a few key stakeholders about what significant changes this has on the local community of Parramore.