Good afternoon! It’s great to be in Downtown
Orlando! State of Downtown is one of my favorite events. If you’ve been
here before, you know we do something different every year. We like to
loosen our ties… Sometimes, we crank up the music… We try to do away
with the stuffy speeches! Although, I’ve probably given a few!
State of Downtown
October 2, 2008
Most importantly, we celebrate our
accomplishments and we look to the future.
We celebrate our progress in reshaping and revitalizing our Downtown.
We look ahead… to the world class Downtown that everyone in this room is
helping to build for all of Central Florida.
This year, unfortunately, it’s also vital
to recognize that we are in the midst of a crisis on Wall Street and a
larger economic slump for our country.
This financial climate means challenges
for our families and local businesses. It means challenges for state and
local governments. It means challenges for our Downtown. So, the program
we have built for you today is designed to address our challenges:
- How do we sustain our Downtown
revitalization through this economic down-turn?
- Why are America’s downtowns more
important than ever?
- How do we best position Downtown
Orlando as the engine that propels our central Florida economy?
We have put together a panel of experts
to explore these questions and ideas. But, before we get into the
discussion, I want to make a few announcements and acknowledgments:
- We have representatives from our
hometown university, UCF: Provost and Executive Vice President -
Terry Hickey, and, the Executive Director of the Florida Interactive
Entertainment Academy - Ben Noel. UCF President, Doctor John Hitt,
could not be here. I want to thank him and everyone from UCF for
their willingness invest in our Downtown. Terry and Ben, I know you
are as excited as I am to announce that UCF is expanding its
presence in Downtown Orlando!
In 2005, UCF opened FIEA. Since that time, the school has been
successful at graduating students that can go directly into high
paying jobs in the growing field of interactive, digital
entertainment. FIEA will now be part of a much larger Downtown
facility that includes a variety of digital media and film
disciplines. It will include UCF’s film school. It will house TV,
film and motion capture studios. It will also be home to “Citi-Lab”
a partnership between UCF and the University of Florida school of
Today, I have the pleasure of announcing the birth of the: UCF
Center for Emerging Media. Along with the House of Moves, the
Center for Emerging Media will anchor our creative village. In the
near future, our creative village will be a place where
professionals in the emerging media industry can live, work and
play… all here Downtown.
- For many years, we’ve said one of
the critical elements of our Downtown’s revitalization would be a
superior downtown supermarket. Just last month, Publix at the
Paramount opened its doors! Chad Wilson and Paul Bracker from Publix
are with us.
- Another fundamental element is a
downtown movie theater. I know… I know. If you were here two years
ago, you might still have the tickets we gave out for the premiere.
We are close to securing our movie theater and I am excited to tell
you those tickets are still good!
- We are keeping the construction
momentum moving Downtown. Yesterday, I helped break ground on
Downtown’s newest high rise, the Montage. The Montage will be
Downtown’s first environmentally-friendly, LEED certified
- Speaking of green buildings, OUC’s
new headquarters is set to open on November 11th.
It will be Downtown’s first LEED certified commercial building and
it will set the standard for all future office buildings in our
- Keeping Downtown, and our entire
City safe, is our top priority. I hope all of you got a chance to
check out one of our IRIS cameras as you made your way into the
ballroom. These are “smart cameras” that can detect movement and
alert police to crimes as they are happening. In the next few
months, we will be launching phase two of our IRIS camera program
beginning in our Downtown core. We’re doing this through a unique
public-private partnership lead by Darden Restaurants and the Target
- Many of our Downtown small business
owners are here today. From Church Street… to Vendor’s Way. From
Thornton Park… to Ivanhoe Village. From the SODO project where a new
Target store will open as the anchor of an exciting mixed-use
prototype… to Mills Park.
I want to personally salute each and every one of you. You have made
a commitment to Downtown and to the future of this community.
I know challenges remain. I want to ensure our small business owners
that our City is doing everything possible to set the stage for you
to succeed. To further that effort, today, we launch a
newly-enhanced “Business Assistance Team.” Whether it’s a helping
hand in explaining the permitting process… A connection to business
counseling… Or simply access to City services… The B.A.T. will offer
a “one stop shop” designed to give our business owners help during
tough economic times.
- Another project we are excited about
is the Renaissance at Carver Square which will go up where the
historic Carver Theater once stood. This mixed-use project includes
a community theater and commercial space, along with a small
business incubator, providing education and networking components.
I am pleased to announce the anchor tenant for the Renaissance at
Carver Square will be the Urban Trust Bank. Founded by Robert
Johnson, owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats and founder of B-E-T,
the Urban Trust Bank will not only serve as a Downtown branch, but
as the home office for the entire company. It’s exciting to
have Mr. Johnson play a part in the revitalization of Parramore and
I want to recognize the CEO of the Urban Trust who is with us today,
This public-private partnership is another important advance for
Parramore that will ensure the neighborhood’s future as a thriving
downtown residential and business district. We have made an
unprecedented investment in the neighborhood: Through this project…
Through the Pathways for Parramore initiative… And now, through
Community Venues… We have laid the foundation to change the future
for downtown residents both east and west of I-4.
- A year ago we made history when we
committed to building our Community venues.
Today, I’m happy to report we are on course to bring world class
arts and entertainment options to Downtown Orlando. We’ve
broken ground on our Events Center. We are well into the design
stages of our performing arts center.
On Monday, we will award the architectural contract for the Citrus
This week, the contract for the steel to build the events center was
awarded to a local company, Schuff Steel. With a steel
fabrication facility in our own backyard, this means almost 300 jobs
for local workers. We are extending education and job opportunities
through our Community Blueprint. Like FDR did in the 1930’s, we will
use our public projects to provide jobs and job training during
tough economic times.
- Our Community Venues will propel our
Downtown toward a brighter future. But, we still need more
transportation options if we are going to rival the great downtowns
of the world. That’s where commuter rail fits in. I’m sure most of
you have followed our collective effort to make commuter rail a
reality. The local, state and federal funding is in place. The only
piece of the puzzle remaining is legislative approval of some legal
language. Many of you have asked, “What can I do to help?” My
friends, we are going to get this done! And, you can play an
In your bags, you’ll find some information about the project. You’ll
also find a blank post card. Right now, the governor, Florida’s CFO
and many new legislators are forming their priorities for the coming
year. We need to tell Tallahassee that Commuter Rail isn’t just
vital to Central Florida. It’s vital to the transportation
future of the entire state. So, it should be their priority. I’m
asking that each of you write a personal note, asking our state
leaders to make Central Florida’s Commuter Rail a priority. And, put
your name and address on it. If you do it today, you can drop it off
in the back of the room and it will be mailed for you.
- Commuter rail is just another great
example of a shared dream that we are turning into reality because
of partnership and cooperation. Everything we have accomplished and
all that we aim to achieve for Downtown comes from our ability to
work together. I have no better partners than our City
commissioners. I would like to thank each of them for their
commitment to Downtown and the residents of our City. I also want to
recognize and thank our CRA Advisory Board and our Downtown
Development Board. Thank you, to our friends on the Orange County
Commission represented here today by Commissioner Mildred Fernandez.
I also want to thank my wife Karen, for all you do for our community
and our family.
Our Downtown has faced challenges over
the past five years. We have overcome every one in order to lay the
foundation for a world class urban center. This is a credit to every
single person in this room. I want to thank all of you for believing in
Downtown Orlando. Yes, there are new challenges ahead. But, the state of
our Downtown remains filled with potential and ready to meet any
State of Downtown Discussion
David Feehan, president of the
International Downtown Association. David has devoted more than 35
years to rebuilding and revitalizing cities. He has directed
downtown programs across the country.
Doctor Jerry Mitchell,
professor of public affairs at Baruch College at the City University
of New York. His research focuses on downtown development both here
in the US and in Europe.
John Thomas, Director of Policy and Political Affairs for the
Florida League of Cities.
He represents the interests of more than 400 cities. He also serves
as Executive Director of Florida’s Urban Partnership.
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