ORLANDO, Fla. - The Eola house at Lake Eola Park is officially open Friday afternoon.
The house will be used as the park headquarters.
However, the house has served many purposes.
A few years ago, a row of residential houses was about to become a giant office building across from Lake Eola Park.
But the city found a way to buy it, and Friday, they showed off the new and improved Lake Eola Park.
Mayor Buddy Dyer and several city commissioners officially opened the new Eola House and the Lake Eola Park expansion with the cutting of a ribbon.
"I'm so delighted we were able to work the will of the people and not put a development that would have been out of character with this park," said Dyer.
The house is one of five that used to sit across from the park, and the one that remains is refurbished inside and can now be used for everything from community
meetings to weddings, complete with a bride's room.
"It's going to be a place that houses our park offices, a welcome
center, and it's going to be a center for activities. You can have weddings here, you can have meetings here and it's a fabulous space right in the heart of Lake Eola," said Dyer.
Securing the previously privately-owned land and homes was a financial wrestling match for the city.
The purchase of the land almost didn't happen. At one point, a developer planned to put up a high-rise office building, but residents rebelled.
"I got to tell you, we got the message loud and clear. People did not want a high-rise here," said Dyer.
The answer came when the city came up with $8.5. million with the help of The Trust for Public Land.
The house is ready for guests, as a welcome center and a gift shop, with more than an acre of new open lawn space.
The city is holding an open house on Sunday starting at noon.