Good Afternoon. Welcome to the Amway Center. Welcome to Downtown Orlando.
One of the first things I did after being entrusted with the privilege of serving as Mayor, was to gather a diverse cross section of residents to create a shared plan for breathing life back into a Downtown that people had taken to calling a “Ghost Town.” The group was called the Downtown Strategic Transition Team.
We started with a simple, shared belief: that in the century ahead, the health and vitality of Downtown Orlando would impact the fate of our whole region like never before. If Central Florida was to realize its potential, to compete and thrive in the new economy, then Downtown had to be more than it was.
Downtown Orlando had to be an economic engine and cultural hub for our
And, that is an understatement! We certainly haven’t achieved everything we set out to accomplish.
But, as I look back at the strategy set forth by our community in the fall of 2003, I am proud of the successes we’ve achieved, the challenges we’ve overcome and the position our center City is in today.
This task force created 166 recommendations to better our Downtown. Today, 136 of those are complete or in progress. That is a tremendous accomplishment and something everyone who calls Central Florida home can take pride in. As we celebrate the tenth Anniversary of our plan to revitalize and modernize Downtown Orlando, we’re not just going to focus on past achievements. Today is also about looking ahead and thinking about what’s next as we continue to work together to build the best Downtown in all of America!
To map out where we want to go, it’s important to remember how we got
Over the last ten years, we’ve shepherded nearly 50 cornerstone projects
to completion, which represents nearly two billion dollars worth of
investment in Downtown Orlando.
These projects have increased residential units by more than 80 percent
in the last ten years.
Another pillar of our strategic plan was transportation; making Downtown a more pedestrian friendly destination and expanding public transportation options. Today, more than 1 million people a year ride the free Lymmo circulator.
We’ve built an intelligent transportation system that directs people to available parking, notifies them of events and helps them navigate Downtown more easily. And, we’ve created a more walk-able Downtown by widening sidewalks, enhancing crosswalks, activating storefronts and by improving Gertrude’s Walk, which provides bikers and pedestrians with a unique urban trail that runs through our City. There is no doubt, the biggest transportation achievement has been the incredible team effort to finally, after years of work, build a rail system to carry daily workers to and from our Downtown core. You can see a SunRail locomotive for the first time today, along with a cab car, at Church Street Station.
Just a few months from now Central Floridians will, quite literally, have a connection to their Downtown aboard SunRail… our first commuter rail system. In fact, the next time we gather for this event, many of you will have traveled here on SunRail.
The third focus area of our 2003 plan was Quality of Life. We believed then, and still believe today, that more than any single amenity, superior quality of life is what draws employers, workers, residents and visitors to Downtown. Quality of life starts with safety.
We’ve made our Downtown safer by installing a network of IRIS police cameras, adding more foot and bike patrols and opening a new, state of the art Fire Department Headquarters that has helped us increase response times.
We’ve made our Downtown a destination for more free community events
like concerts, farmer’s markets, parades, car shows, festivals and, of
course, Fireworks at the Fountain.
Superior quality of life means protecting our environment and creating a
culture of sustainability.
Ten years ago, there were no LEED certified buildings Downtown. Now we have 11, including OUC’s headquarters. Quality of life isn’t just about big projects. It’s also about the small touches and a sense of personal connectedness to a place. That’s why we augmented our tree canopy. That’s why we added green space with the opening of ZL Riley Park and the “The Lawn” at Lake Eola. And, it’s why we upgraded the Lake Eola Fountain and added a unique event space called “The Eola House” as part of our effort to make our signature park a one-of-a-kind destination.
The fourth element of our original plan was, and in many ways still is,
the most challenging… to create a thriving retail, restaurant and
Ten years ago we declared this our goal, knowing that Downtown Orlando
faced stiff competition from some of the best shopping areas and
restaurants in the country, not to mention three of the largest
hospitality destinations in the world.
We added restaurant offerings and have grown a robust nightlife scene. We’ve utilized mixed-use development to lay a foundation for future retail and hospitality growth. We opened a Downtown information center, where nearly six-thousand people a year have been able to get personalized information about Downtown. Our events and marketing program has worked to attract more business meetings to our City center, which resulted in 32-hundred room nights last year.
We’ve also made urban living more desirable by bringing a grocery store back to Downtown and helping small businesses open and succeed. This year alone, we welcomed 158 new businesses to Downtown, ranging from a fitness studio, to a home furnishing store, to my favorite… a gourmet popsicle shop.
The fifth pillar of our original plan called for retaining the Orlando Magic’s presence here in our center City, building a world-class performing arts center, expanding the presence of the arts, attracting more events and securing a movie theater. On this front, I’m not sure there’s a major Downtown anywhere in the United States that has accomplished as much in under a decade. Accomplishing these goals has taken longer than we wanted.
We’ve had to endure the effects of a nationwide recession.
But, we persevered, we adapted and we refused to give up.
Because of that hard work, our arts community is thriving.
We’ve opened a movie theater and 15 art galleries since 2003.
Because of that hard work, the Magic are celebrating their 25th
anniversary in Orlando.
This month, we celebrate the third anniversary of the opening of the
Three years ago we gathered here to open the best arena in the entire
The Amway center has been recognized for providing the best customer
experience in the entire NBA.
Nearly four million people from across Central Florida, around the
country and all over the globe have attended events at this world-class
facility in the last three years.
We are hosting events that we would not have been able to just a few
years ago like NCAA tournament games, the NBA All Star Game, and this
past weekend, world championship boxing.
More important than any one event, the Amway Center has become a destination where people have shared experiences and make memories with friends and loved ones. When you think about it… the Amway Center really is the embodiment of the shared vision we have for all of Downtown Orlando… to be a place that offers something unique… for everyone.
I just recounted the five focus areas of our original plan.
There were actually six.
But, Parramore was so important that we devoted an entire task force to
Orlando’s historic African-American neighborhood.
When we talk about the necessity of having a Downtown that creates
opportunity for everyone… we have always believed that ideal must
include the residents of Parramore.
Perhaps the greatest impact, our outreach to more than 2,000 young
people has resulted in an 87 percent reduction in Juvenile crime and
given some of our most vulnerable students access to education and
opportunities that have set them on course for brighter futures.
This community has done so much in the last ten years to change this Downtown for the better, forever. These accomplishments wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of everyone in this room and so many others throughout our City. What I would like to do is take a few moments and say thank you. When I say your names, please stand up and let us express our shared gratitude properly.
Thank you to our City Commissioners for your vision and leadership.
Thank you to Mayor Teresa Jacobs and our partners at Orange County.
Thank you to the Downtown Orlando Partnership.
Because of you, we are on the verge of what’s going to be the most exciting year in the history of Downtown Orlando! I want everyone to think about what’s happening right now in Downtown and how it positions us for the future.
Ask yourselves… is there any other Downtown in America experiencing this much activity? At this moment, nine projects are underway that are creating thousands of jobs and represent a 1.3 billion dollar investment in Downtown. This list includes NORA, Skyhouse and the A-Loft hotel.
In the year ahead, six more projects will break ground that will add another 350 million dollars of investment in Downtown. Together, these 15 projects will add 15-hundred new residential units, 400 new hotel rooms and 50-thousand square feet of new retail space to Downtown.
Think about the arts, culture and sports renaissance going on.
Has anyone noticed any new sculptures?
Those are part of “See Art Orlando.”
Orlando is the only City ever to install 8 privately funded, iconic,
public art sculptures throughout its Downtown all at one time.
I also want to thank the See Art Orlando Board, please stand and be recognized. In any other City, that announcement would be a blockbuster. In Orlando, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future of arts, culture and sports. Next year, this event will be held inside our new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts! Not long after that, we will play our bowl games in a reconstructed Citrus Bowl. Tying this evolving sports and entertainment district together is the street-scape improvement project for Church Street, which includes a neighborhood entry-way to Parramore.
Think about our Downtown as a shared space. Downtown is the neighborhood that belongs to, and is shared by, everyone who calls Central Florida home. Our efforts to provide more shared amenities will mean an expanded Lake Eola Farmer’s market this year and movies at the park beginning this holiday season.
Think about how we are helping our neighbors in need.
This year, our commitment to addressing homelessness takes an important
step with the opening of a men’s service center that goes far beyond
giving those less fortunate a place to sleep.
The service center will provide intake assessment, comprehensive case
management, counseling and a path toward self-sufficiency.
Think about SunRail, which is being finished before our eyes.
SunRail is the spine of what will eventually be a region-wide,
multi-modal network of transportation options that allow us to get where
we want to go without having to rely solely on car ownership and
Today, we are excited to announce the names of those new Lymmo routes
that were chosen by our residents and reflect our Florida heritage.
Next year we can ride the Grapefruit line… the Lime line and the Orange
We’re going to see car sharing and bike sharing programs launch in
Downtown – and the expanded use of electric cars through the Drive
Electric Orlando program.
And, Florida Hospital has re-oriented its campus to connect with SunRail. SunRail’s connective power doesn’t just stop at the borders of Central Florida. By eventually linking SunRail to the airport and to All Aboard Florida, the planned train to South Florida, we will help build a connection between Downtown Orlando and the entire state… as well as the world. Those transit linkages will be critical to attracting the job creators and workers of the future and to further diversify our economy.
Finally, let’s think about the future and the legacy we are creating for future generations. Right now, we have six proposed projects that would mean another 2 billion dollars in investment. We are working to keep that pipeline filled. We also know the types of projects we seek need to evolve. With the Creative Village and its 5-thousand knowledge jobs as an anchor, and more tech companies looking to call our center City home… our vision is for Downtown Orlando to be the South’s new “Tech Hub.”
Let’s also think about how the next generation of projects lend themselves to positively impacting so many different facets of our Downtown. The plan we are bringing forward for a new OPD headquarters is a perfect example.
Replacing this crumbling 41 year old building will help give our officers new tools and training to fight crime, and it will make our department more accessible to citizens. The benefits don’t stop with safety. A new OPD headquarters paves the way for the redevelopment of an entire block in the heart of our Downtown entertainment district. Funding the OPD headquarters, in part, from the large-scale energy savings generated by retrofitting our City facilities helps us save money and allows us to take a national leadership role in showcasing how sustainable decisions can make business sense.
In order to be the home of 21st century workers and visitors, we have to
have 21st century amenities.
That’s why the sports and entertainment development proposed by the
Orlando Magic is so important.
With an urban convention center, hotel rooms, retail space and the
team’s headquarters, we will be able to transform an entire block into a
place that attracts more visitors to Downtown and allows us to host
Downtown-wide conventions for the first time in decades.
On Monday, the Orlando City Council unanimously approved the plan to
make this happen.
Today 15 thousand people live in Downtown.
Every day 75 thousand people come to work here.
A world-class destination for anyone who wants to live, work, learn and
play in Central Florida.
This task force is unique and important because it allows people who are passionate about Downtown to have the opportunity to help shape its future. We must always remember that at its core… people are what make Downtown Orlando. Our Downtown is a living thing. It’s an ever-evolving and supremely diverse collection of people who make the decision to have Downtown Orlando play an important role in their lives. Each of these people has a different motivation for making Downtown Orlando their destination, a different reason for why Downtown is special to them. Each of these people, in ways big and small, is going to help us chart our course for the future. I could tell you why our residents love their Downtown. But, I wouldn’t be able to do them justice. So, rather than just tell you… we wanted to show you!
Thank you for attending today. Thank you, once again, for your commitment to Downtown Orlando and to making our City the best place anywhere to live, work, learn and raise a family. Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to some of Orlando’s residents who’ve made Downtown Orlando their destination.