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The Reconstruction of the Florida Turnpike’s Plazas - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

The Florida Turnpike was first built in the 1950’s and by the time it was completed it covered 312 miles through Central Florida, down to Miami and north to Okahumpka.

Although its eight plazas have been updated over the years, they were pretty typical of the buildings of that era – block and stucco buildings, low ceilings, congested central areas and small shops. Inside there was harsh fluorescent lighting, and dark and dingy (though very clean! ) rest rooms. As we have travelled up and down the Turnpike over the years we have noticed that the plazas were definitely beginning to show their age.

However, following the campaign by Governor Charlie Crist to make the state greener, together with the awarding of a 30 year contract to Areas USA to provide food, beverage and retail services, these aged plazas are going to be completely updated. Instead of being somewhere to spend as little time as possible, these new plazas hope to provide a healthy environment where visitors can linger and relax. The aim is to build four new facilities and to renovate three older ones so that they will comply with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Silver Standard. This green building certification system encourages the use of energy and water saving strategies, as well as reducing CO2 emissions.

In order to comply with these requirements, a team of Miami based architects has come up with some amazing designs. Ceiling heights will be increased, and rows of windows high up on top of walls (like in churches) will let in lots of natural light. Soaring ceilings and skylights will add to the feeling of light and spaciousness. To meet the LEED requirements, alternative power sources such as wind turbines and solar energy may be introduced. Native stone, wood and tiles will be used, and the colour scheme will be white with light wood. Outside there will be considerable use of indigenous plants to help save water.

Other ideas to encourage visitors to stay awhile include laptop work areas, lounge seating and maybe even a full-service restaurant. Instead of the usual poky and dark restrooms, the architects have designed much larger areas.

Work has already begun, and it is expected to take around 18-24 months to complete.

Next time we drive down the Turnpike we expect to see some changes to the plazas. It will be interesting to see them brought very firmly into the 20th century.

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