In 1997, the City of Maitland charted a course to revive its struggling downtown area.
The small center of a largely suburban community had been overshadowed for decades by busy vehicle traffic and new building development around nearby U.S. Highway 17-92, Maitland Boulevard and Interstate 4. Maitland needed a real downtown.
A collective of city officials, residents, business and civic leaders envisioned a destination that would become the focus of city government, commercial shops, restaurants, leisure recreation and public events.
They sought a traditional downtown that incorporated mixed-use development, a park, scenic streetscaping and accessible corridors for pedestrians and cyclists.
Tying all of this together would be a central spine known as Independence Lane.
By 2003, Independence Lane was still little more than a small access road between Maitland's municipal facilities and the back side of an aging and mostly vacant shopping center. Plans lingered for years until everything started to fall into place.
New facilities for Maitland City Hall and Fire Station 45 would open in 2012 at the corner of Independence Lane and Packwood Avenue. The old shopping plaza eventually would be torn down and redeveloped into Maitland City Centre - an upscale, six-story mixed-use development with shops and restaurants on the ground floor and residences upstairs including live/work units.
Maitland City Centre opened in 2018 along with a completely rebuilt Independence Lane between Packwood Avenue and Horatio Avenue featuring a beautiful streetscape of brick-lined streets, festival lighting, outdoor seating, landscaping and more.
New downtown businesses quickly followed. Then, in 2020, the City of Maitland opened Independence Square - a nearly two-acre park on Independence Lane with public restrooms, outdoor seating and courtyard, a fountain, walkways and a large, open event lawn that would complement Independence Lane as Maitland's premiere event venue.
Independence Lane quickly became recognized as the gathering place for the community activities like the Getdown Downtown street parties, the Maitland Farmer's Market and Movies in the Park at Independence Square.
In the future, Maitland looks to extend Independence Lane north of Horatio Avenue and George Avenue, terminating at the campus of Maitland Presbyterian Church. When completed, Independence will connect all three roads named for one of the city's founding fathers, George Horatio Packwood.