HKS’ Southeast Design Fellowship Promotes Equity & Resiliency in Orlando

Orlando, Florida, often referred to as “The City Beautiful” and synonymous with the happiest place on earth, is a vibrant metropolis in the heart of the Sunshine State. However, like many growing cities, there is a marked disparity in socioeconomics among some Orlando communities. One such area is the historic Parramore neighborhood near downtown.

Developed in the 1880s, Parramore was an economic and cultural hub for African Americans in Central Florida until the 1960s, when Interstate 4 was built between Parramore and Orlando’s affluent central business district. The raised expressway displaced more than 500 properties and created a distinct divide in downtown Orlando.

HKS engaged with the City of Orlando and the city’s Future-Ready Initiative to create designs for addressing inequities and deploying resilience hubs within Parramore. The HKS Orlando office recently hosted our 2023 Southeast Design Fellowship (SEDF), an incubator for young designers with a passion for solving complicated challenges in their communities.

The SEDF design charrette occurred in two phases, a month-long research phase and a four-day design phase during which five teams of HKS Southeast Design Fellows met with Orlando city leaders, toured the community and presented their design concepts and solutions.

The Southeast Design Fellows were tasked with using the American Institute of Architects Framework for Design Excellence to investigate Parramore, develop an understanding of the community’s history, culture and environment and develop design solutions that mitigate and adapt to hazards, so the people of Parramore can thrive.

Below are descriptions of each team’s design and guiding principles.

Parramore Farmline

Designed by Brian Lachnicht, Fernando Arana and Mahnoor Faheem

Urban interventions introduced into a historically disenfranchised community empower healthy, positive interactions, engaging change through activation, celebration, connection and education.

Activate: Repurpose abandoned lots into wetlands, green spaces and urban farms.

Celebrate: Soft scape spaces to reduce surface run-off, build a bioswale to filter run-off before it drains into lakes and sell fresh produce at a local street market.

Connect: Connect various sections of Parramore’s urban fabric through bike lanes, continuous sidewalks and green belts.

Educate: Educate residents of Orlando and Parramore through didactic measures that include developing bike routes that pass through historic sites of Parramore, providing farming classes to enable residents to grow, eat and sell food and providing access to Wi-Fi and electricity for charging devices through resilience hubs.

Circular Economy

Designed by Maria Guruceaga, Zeid Omeish and Karla Orellana

This group evaluated three options through the eyes of a child, to create a network of security for children based on playing, learning and creating. Designing a circular economy through an interconnected network of varying scales promotes children’s safety, education and ownership.

Community Center: Main providers for resources, learning and civic involvement.

Resilient Pod: Creating a safe space for networking, production and learning.

Mobile Unit: Providing distribution, refill programs, collection and community outreach.

Resilience Avenue

Designed by: Carlos Rivas, Danna Bermudez and Elizabeth Chew

Reclaiming the underused sectors of Parramore Avenue introduces a resilient “public canvas” to engage and celebrate the community while providing a platform to showcase innovation and progression.

The “public canvas” introduces a flexible community-focused space tailored for gathering and sociological analysis. This typology is meant to encourage innovative solutions in the pursuit of community well-being and catalyze the large-scale implementation of successful case strategies. A community space that provides access to first aid, clean water, Wi-Fi/electricity, food and prep space and public facilities promotes resiliency.

Bodega in Parramore

Designed by Hossein Mirzajani, Luiza Heleno and Ja’Nai Ferguson

Community cornerstones increase engagement, bridge the generational gap and empower the community through resilience.

Drawing inspiration from a typical bodega, this group evaluated locations to provide modular, prefabricated community cornerstones. Four sites throughout the community will provide unique resiliency features including restrooms and showers, clean drinking water, book exchanges, art and educational spaces, internet and charging stations, areas for food exchange and waste disposal, fitness areas and historic preservation honoring the community heritage.

The Parramore Collection

Designed by Chris Tromp, Claudia Reyes and Shantanu Parikh

This team proposed a two-fold approach for children to cement ownership of their community’s future.

First, the team created an illustrative platform that represents children’s potential and allows them to author their own stories.

In conjunction with this platform, the team proposed a series of architectural interventions to support the spread of vital information and meet community needs.

Graphic novels portray the possibilities in an approachable way that allows kids to envision their future and create a sense of pride about where they came from and where they are going. Community parks create engagement and provide kids with a safe space to explore.

2023 HKS SEDF Fellows


HKS would like to thank GATE, Armstrong, dri-design, Sherwin Williams, KONE, Steris, NOVUM and ASSA ABLOY, the sponsors of the 2023 Southeast Design Fellowship.