State of Downtown Address Luncheon
October 4, 2006
It is working now!
Starting with a man named Walt Disney … who dared to imagine that vast
orange groves could become the world’s top travel destination … our
region has been defined by our ability to dream BIG.
For the past several years, we’ve gathered at this event and discussed
our big dreams. We’ve imagined and talked about how to create a
world-class urban core for our residents.
I submit to you that while laying out our vision was important … more
important was our commitment to act on that vision … to push beyond a
possibility and create reality.
In fact, just two years ago almost to the day, at this very State of the
Downtown address, we announced our City Council’s vision for building
three new community venues – a performing arts center, an events center
and a renovated citrus bowl. On that day two years ago, I pledged that
we together, would have the new performing arts center out of the ground
within four years and we’re right on schedule.
And I joked, and even got a little grief for it, that little ole
Jacksonville was hosting the Super Bowl that year. Well, this year Miami
is hosting the Super Bowl, but the important difference is that now,
Orlando could host the Super Bowl in years to come.
Crotty, my friend and partner, is here with us today. Last week, he and
I stood together with our city council and county commission to unveil a
plan that builds on our amazing residential, retail and commercial
renaissance - and delivers us at the doorstep of becoming the greatest
city, not just in Florida, but in the entire country.
I called the plan a “Triple Crown for Downtown” and that is just what it
is. In the midst of one of the nation’s most successful revitalizations
of a downtown we will build three world-class community venues … venues
that will make us proud and show the world that Orlando is no longer a
second tier city. We will stand head-to-head and shoulder-to-shoulder
with any region in the world.
Today, we celebrate this most recent success, but first let’s talk about
the path that we forged together and that brought us to this pinnacle.
It began with a simple statement from our Downtown Strategic Transition
Team three years ago … we will create “A dynamic downtown model for the
21st century. A safe, sustainable, livable and vibrant city center. A
welcome and desirable place for all people, especially the citizens of
Orlando.” And, that is exactly what we are doing.
As you leave today and look down Church Street, you will see two
mixed-use projects that ignited our renaissance and began the live, work
and play movement in our downtown.
Now, I will concede there was some speculation whether 55 West would
ever get underway, but today, it’s going up … it’s going up in a big
way. Once completed, this 34-story complex will be one of several
projects that rival our City’s tallest building, the SunTrust tower.
as we speak, the finishing touches are being put on the Premiere Trade
Plaza. In fact … if you reach into the bag that was on your seat you’ll
find a pair of movie vouchers, courtesy of Kuhn Management, for our
City’s first downtown movie theater in decades opening early next year.
We’ve promised to make Downtown a place for everyone, and these two
catalytic projects sparked a surge of activity that is making it happen
… with retail, entertainment and restaurant choices, along with
residential units, all within walking distance.
In April, we announced the new Capital Plaza III complex, a true
“mixed-use” project that includes a 150-room hotel and 9,000 square feet
of retail space.
The new City Arts Factory became the anchor for the City’s Downtown arts
district … with five art galleries, a classroom, an artist’s studio and
8,000 square feet of event and performance space.
Last month the longest concrete pour in the history of our City took
place in Downtown. Crews spent 27 hours pouring the foundation of The
Paramount … which will house the first urban grocery store in our
Downtown core in decades. And in mid-September we celebrated the
completion of the top floor of the 18-story, Star Tower on East Jackson
Yesterday, I attended the grand opening of The Lexington, Downtown’s
newest luxury hotel. And, tonight I will attend an event to celebrate
the construction of a new 23-story condominium project called The
Monarch. In the next year or so, two more important downtown projects
will be complete, the VUE and the Dynetech building. And, next week,
ground will break on a new downtown apartment complex … Camden Orange
New restaurants have also begun to pop up all over downtown... Pearl
Steakhouse and the Exchange Lounge, which recently opened on Church
Street, as well as The Beacon, Fifi's and Graze, which are all opening
on the ground floor of The Sanctuary.
Unimaginable three years ago … residents and visitors alike will now be
able to stroll down to Church Street for dinner, head back to Orange
Avenue to catch a movie then across the street to the Arts Factory for
the opening of a new exhibit. That’s a lifestyle our residents deserve.
And just imagine what that experience will be like in three more years
with the vibrancy of community venues… broadways shows, conference
championships and cultural opportunities.
Our commitment to revitalizing Downtown remains focused on both the
eastside and the west side of I-4. We are delivering on that commitment
with a host of projects aimed at revitalizing Parramore while preserving
the neighborhood’s heritage.
We are crossing man-made barriers with sustainable bridges such as the
five Pathways for Parramore – housing, public safety, quality of life,
children & education and business development. Since Commissioner Lynum
and I launched the Pathways for Parramore initiative last year, a host
of organizations such as the Orlando Housing Authority, Black Business
Investment Fund, Bank of America, and the Orlando Neighborhood
Improvement Corporation have joined us.
our recently appointed Attainable Housing Task Force, and projects like
Otey Place, Parramore Village and Carver Park, which are going to
provide housing for people of all income levels, we will strengthen and
protect our neighborhoods.
Soon, as residents and visitors head west down Church Street, they will
not stop at I-4. They will continue on down the newly renovated $17
million grand entertainment boulevard, West Church street, and head over
to Parramore Heritage Park … offering new open space for gatherings and
Residents of Parramore, as they visit their new Heritage Park will feel
safe. We are taking the deliberate steps today to focus on the immediate
needs and create public safety solutions for the future.
officers are connecting with residents, walking the streets and meeting
the specific needs of the neighborhood, and we’ve opened a brand new
police sub-station in the City View development on West Church Street to
make those officers more accessible to the neighborhood.
This commitment has been made to the entire city. In fact, this week
marks the official start of our new fiscal year, and the beginning of a
$110 million public safety initiative. I can tell you that this
administration and our City Council remain committed to Public Safety.
In August, we also formed the Safe Orlando Task Force. This group of
community representatives will work in tandem with the OPD to tackle
crime-related issues and develop a strategic action plan that taps into
every available resource.
I will make a promise to all of you. We will take every step necessary
to ensure that residents and visitors feel safe and secure while
visiting, working or living in our Downtown and anywhere in our city.
As we’ve focused on improving public safety and residential options,
there has been a surge of new business activity in Parramore, including
the relocation and expansion of Johnson’s Diner, the establishment of
the City View Pharmacy and Flavor Fashion clothing store, as well as the
opening of new restaurants like Quiznos Subs and Piattini’s Pizzeria. We
have even seen the revival of a Parramore Merchants Association.
I mentioned earlier the term “sustainable bridges.” None of the
successes we’ve just mentioned are sustainable without our next
generation … our children. This year, the City of Orlando applied for
and received a $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
that will help launch the Parramore Kidz Zone.
grant is being matched with another $1.5 million from local
philanthropic organizations like the Dr. Phillips, Edyth Bush, Universal
and Winter Park Foundations as well as the Kiwanis Club.
The Kidz Zone program will ensure that all of our children, starting
with every single child in Parramore, will have access to the critical
programs they need to grow and prosper … health care, after school
programs, mentoring, and many more opportunities that will help them
succeed and sustain productive lives. I can’t think of anything more
Diversifying our economy, and creating high-value jobs is key to
ensuring our children are successful in building their lives right here
in Orlando. Last year, at this very luncheon, I announced we would work
on a plan to redevelop the Centroplex into an urban, creative village.
This is an opportunity to build on our partnership with the UCF School
of Film and Digital Media, and to make Downtown the heart of our
like neighborhoods such as SoHo in New York, we envision a place where
artists, computer programmers, video game designers and musicians gather
to live, share ideas, create and learn, together.
In August, I asked Ben Noel, executive director of the Florida
Interactive Entertainment Academy, and Suzy Allen, Director of Film and
Digital Media Development for the EDC, two of the most creative people I
know, to head up the Creative Village Concept Team. This extremely
talented group of volunteers are developing recommendations on the key
success factors needed to bring this vision to reality.
Imagine the Centroplex being transformed from a sea of asphalt parking
spaces into an urban village that is home to multiple digital media and
technology companies, one-of-a-kind retailers, students and a creative
mix of residents.
As we imagine this future, think of having choices of how to get from
point A to point B. We can leave the car at home, we can jump on the
Commuter rail, we can transfer to Lymmo routes that crisscross downtown,
connecting Lake Eola with Parramore, hospital with hospital and venue to
I announced, last year, that the City developed the most comprehensive
downtown transportation plan in our history and today, the results of
that study are in.
Successful downtowns place an equal importance on people, as they do on
cars. As a result of our planning, we will have a stronger focus on
pedestrian places and amenities and, strengthen our city grid network
for vehicles – connecting streets for easier traffic flow – reducing the
time we spend in traffic.
residents also deserve transportation options, and the plan identifies,
in partnership with Lynx, how to accomplish mass-transit for our
community. The plan also calls for a network of electronic signage that
will direct people to the closest available parking or away from traffic
jams, or to special events – like the ones that will be held in our new
The bottom line is, in the future, whether you’re walking, driving or
using transit, it will be easier to get around downtown.
Now, let’s stop for a minute and think about all of this…a skyline that
has doubled in size; the revitalization of Parramore; enhanced
transportation infrastructure; additional resources for public safety; a
new “creative village” … you start to wonder how many more great
announcements are possible.
But, I will tell you, we’re just getting started.
Many of you were with Mayor Crotty and me on Friday when we announced
that the City and County are moving forward on the single biggest
community investment ever made in this region.
To get these projects done required us to put aside the short-sighted
goals of the politics of the day and move toward compromise and
coalition building with our county government. Perhaps at another time
this goal would not be achieved. That is not the case today and our
region is the better for it.
So, I want to thank Mayor Crotty once again for making this a true
partnership. I also want to thank our City Council Members and the
Orange County Commissioners for their leadership throughout this
process. There is much more to do … together … and I want to take a
minute to recognize all of you. City and County Commissioners, could you
all please stand so that we can recognize your leadership?
These kinds of projects can’t just be done by government leaders. They
require the support and leadership of citizens, the business community
and staff. We’ve had that support.
From leaders of the tourism industry that supported this vision,
especially Al Weiss, Bob Gault and Rich Maledecki,
From community initiatives such as the EDC and Chamber’s Project
Hometown led by Carmen Dominguez, Dean Kurtz and Jim Lewis,
From leaders of each of the venue partners, Jim Pugh of OPAC, Alex
Martins of the Magic and Bill Diamond of Florida Citrus sports
From members of the City and County committee of four, Jay Berlinsky
and Dykes Everett, Tom Drage and Ajit Lalchandani
From dedicated County and City staff, especially Cheryl Henry, Rebecca
Sutton, Byron Brooks, Frank Billingsley, and Allen Johnson,
And, from all the residents, business owners, community leaders … you
all should be congratulated for your many contributions.
I also want to recognize and thank the woman who is my inspiration …
my wife, Karen.
It’s an exciting time for our region. It’s truly a Triple Crown for
Back to top
Later today we will be putting-up “Future Home” signs on each of the
sites of the new venues. However, there is still a lot of work ahead for
us to get these projects up and out of the ground, so we’ve got to roll
up our sleeves and keep moving ahead.
There has never been a project to more significantly enhance our
resident’s quality of life while providing new education opportunities,
unprecedented economic impact and the transformation of our region’s
So on this beautiful day in October, in beautiful downtown Orlando, I
think we should all agree that we are poised for greatness and that
Orlando will be a better place to live … because of our BIG Dreams.
So, let’s get excited people … we’re doing them all, we’re doing them
now and we’re doing them right! LET’S CELEBRATE!