State of Downtown Address
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
view the DDB presentation)
August 31, 2003, the Orlando Sentinel reported and I quote,
“Homeless people, termites and rats the size of small dogs have
taken over downtown Orlando’s most coveted piece of real estate.
Heralded by Mayor Buddy Dyer as the “keystone block”… the
buildings are the city’s latest code enforcement nightmare. The
block along Orange Avenue between Pine and Church Streets has
sat mostly vacant for more than a decade while plan after plan
for high-rises, a movie theater, shops and restaurants have
fallen by the wayside. The city’s most recent hope of attracting
a movie theater to the block appears to have collapsed” End
Less than 14 months after that story was written we will break
ground tonight on a construction project with high-rises, a
movie theater, shops and restaurants and we will do so on our
“cornerstone block” on Orange between Pine and Church streets.
And I can promise you there will be few termites and all of you
can decide if there are any rats in attendance at tonight’s
Frank [Billingsley, Executive Director of the Downtown
Development Board} has illuminated
in his presentation, what a difference eighteen months can
make. For those of you who attended this luncheon, not last
year, but two years ago, stop and ask yourself if you really
envisioned the rebirth and rebound of our downtown as it ebbs
and flows with construction traffic and cranes.
As I sought this office for the first time 18 months ago I
talked about transformational change vs. incremental change. I
asked all of you to imagine a great city with a downtown that
has restaurants and retail, a vibrant performing arts center,
and professional sports drawing in citizens from not just our
city or Orange County, but throughout the entire Central Florida
For the first time, as Frank has pointed out, people want to
work and live in downtown Orlando and that, as all of you know,
is the first step to ensuring the future of any downtown.
Simply look out your windows and you will see the progress we
have made in our journey to build the great city I have asked
you to imagine.
We have accomplished much, but we have much yet to do. Frank
Billingsley has done a great job of telling you what we have
done, now I would like to tell you what else we need to do.
in the process let me just take a minute to say thank you to our
city council members who have embraced much of what we have done
and have always been there to move our agenda forward these last
We have had great success, in helping along the rebirth of our
downtown core. Tonight we celebrate the ground breaking of the
Plaza project, which is not only a tremendous success on its
own, but is a symbol for what we have managed to do in our
We need to remember that while 2% of the city’s total land area
is considered to be downtown, 14% of the city’s assessed value
is downtown and 24% of our city’s employment is downtown.
Focusing our development efforts downtown will help control
sprawl as we concentrate development right here in our core
where people can walk to work rather than drive. One of best
ways to control growth is to increase urban density. Density is
an essential economic tool and an essential quality of life
factor for people interested in living in an urban core.
Orlando has taken on the positive characteristics that most
great cities have. Positive surprises and spontaneous encounters
with people. Interesting architecture, arts, culture, shopping
cities in the 21st Century know they must develop partnerships
with great Universities in order to develop the high wage
economy of the mind that every city now covets. Our relationship
with the University of Central Florida has never been better.
President Hitt recently used the phrase University of Central
Florida Downtown Campus and I can tell you that we at the City
of Orlando intend to do everything we can to make that phrase a
reality in the coming years.
One example of that new cooperative spirit came just a few weeks
ago when we announced the formation of the Orlando Performing
Arts Planning Board made up of 25 people from our community with
the charge of designing a performing arts center that will
include the University of Central Florida’s Arts programs on the
performing arts site. UCF President Hitt, Chairman Crotty and I
will sit as ex-officio members of the group. Jim Seneff of CNL
and Dick Nunis who now is the Chairman of the UCF Foundation are
serving as Vice Chairs and Jim Pugh, President of Epoch
Properties, will serve as the Chairman. In the past, these
efforts have been led by UCF or the Mayor. This group truly
represents a collegial effort by the entire community, including
UCF, to pull together to get this project out of the ground
within the next four years.
Earlier, I used the term ‘Transformational Change.’ Let me
elaborate. The times that we live in are evolving daily. The
pace that we receive and use information is faster than ever.
Your expectations for our City are high, but not higher than
mine. When I came into office, I found opportunities to use our
healthy real estate market to the City’s advantage. In fact, the
City’s own real estate holdings were a valuable asset.
the north parking lot of City Hall, a new tower is emerging for
the expansion of CNL, one of our largest downtown employers. The
55 West project mentioned earlier, will rise from the site of
the City’s Pine Street garage. The recently approved UCF Film
and Digital Media School will be located in this Expo Center.
This past Monday, our City Council approved the selection of
Lincoln Property and Dynetech Corporation’s proposal to
redevelop the City’s parking lot #2 on Washington St. and
All four of these projects conceptualized during the past 18
months reflect our aggressive style of pushing forward on an
agenda to make our downtown the most livable in America.
Future projects may rise from other City properties. As we are
ready to christen the new Lynx Headquarters and hub, we have an
ideal opportunity to redevelop the current Lynx location.
The City owned parking lot on West Washington Street, currently
under design, is being evaluated for potential expansion and to
serve as our next development site in our city center.
Using our own assets to grow our City has been a wonderful
choice in our toolbox of change in the downtown. But as we grow,
we are still left with some of the goals of the Downtown
Development Board unmet. For instance, a full-service grocery
store is one of the last pieces of the puzzle in making downtown
the 24-hour City we all envision.
I am pleased to announce to you that we have reached tentative
agreement with a development group to build the first Publix in
our core in decades. This unique project will rise on the south
side of Lake Eola and will include a residential condominium
above the 29,000 square foot store.
But the measure of our success will not come in just the rebirth
of our core. That was yesterday’s measuring stick. Tomorrow
brings a barometer of success with far greater challenges than
we have faced these past 18 months.
If we are to succeed as a downtown, we must demonstrate our
ability to bridge our core downtown with Thornton Park on the
east side and Parramore on the west side. To those who have
cautioned us that quote “jumping I-4 will be difficult” in our
redevelopment efforts, let me say that all of our efforts in
building our city will be an abject failure if we are unable to
include the Parramore neighborhood in the rebirth of our
Working with Commissioner Lynum, it is my hope that I will stand
before you next year and will tell you that we have started new
housing in Parramore, new restaurants and retail are planned for
Parramore and that we are beginning to blend our neighborhoods
with new and innovative transportation modes.
November 11th, work will commence on the Parramore Park Pond
project. Two new code enforcement officers have been assigned
just to Parramore and in the coming weeks we will announce a new
Parramore initiative aimed at the eradication of drugs and
prostitution. We are permanently focused on making Parramore a
livable neighborhood that is second to none in our city for its
And within the confines and parameters of Parramore and to the
west are the sporting venues that are identifiable with our
city. These venues have served us well for many years but now
are in need of replacement or renovation.
This year not withstanding, I take Coach O’Leary at his word
when he says that his goal is to build a top-20 football program
at the University of Central Florida and they will need a top
twenty facility to play in.
It is clear that we must find, build or renovate the existing
home for our anchor tenant at the Orlando Arena, the Orlando
present Arena configuration does not lend itself to producing
the revenues they need to survive as a franchise. But more
importantly, we need to focus our efforts and design a community
around the Arena that will support not only those who drive in
for concerts and games, but the students who will attend the new
University of Central Florida Film and Digital Media School to
be located here at the Centroplex. We need to do all of this
with sensitivity and involvement by those neighbors who live
around the Arena.
This year, the Super Bowl will be held in Jacksonville.
Here we are with more hotel rooms than any city other than Las
Vegas and Jacksonville is hosting a Super Bowl and for one
simple reason…they have a stadium that is acceptable to the NFL.
Citrus Bowl can be an incredible economic engine for our city
and the neighborhood surrounding that area, but it desperately
needs not a band-aid solution to mollify a bowl game or series
but a complete makeover of the facility. Yes cosmetic changes
are important, but if we are to succeed in making the Citrus
Bowl a destination for championship bowls and professional
sports we need to accept the fact that the Citrus Bowl is in
need of an overhaul.
Now, the bad news -- that overhaul will cost us about $150
million dollars and today I cannot tell you where the City or
the County will find $150 million dollars. But the good news is
that if we are able to develop a funding formula, the Citrus
Bowl, when we are done, will be one of the pre-eminent
facilities for football and soccer and certainly an adequate
facility for baseball. The city of Philadelphia spent $400
million just for their football facility. The city of Chicago
spent almost $600 million to revitalize Soldiers Field.
Renovating the Citrus Bowl is a bargain by stadium standards.
And when we renovate the Citrus Bowl it will be an economic
success for one very important reason.
We will improve the neighborhoods around the Citrus Bowl at the
Do not think for a minute that we will ever have a first class
sports facility sitting near Orange Blossom Trail if we allow
the acronym OBT to continue to be synonymous with drugs and
prostitution. We need to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and
go to work building not just a sports stadium but a vibrant
neighborhood that has many of the characteristics we are trying
to build right here in downtown.
Stop and imagine, for just one minute, a first-class sports
facility that can host future world cup soccer matches, major,
professional or college football events, and, yes, perhaps a
weekend or two of major league baseball, and host a AAA baseball
team in the summer. And that facility would be connected by the
Church Street Trolley running from downtown to Thornton Park.
Sound hard to believe? In a recent news article written by G.
Scott Thomas of the American City Business Journal, Orlando was
rated as having twice the economic capacity needed for an NFL
franchise or a National Hockey League team. And we had the
highest rating of any market not already in Major League
Baseball, though our income base, Mr. Thomas points out, is 7
percent short of that sports requirement.
Out of 172 markets analyzed for new sports teams Orlando was
ranked third overall behind Los Angeles and Philadelphia and
ahead of Houston, Portland and Las Vegas.
Many here today will say it can’t be done. There will always be
one side of town pitted against another…the haves and the
To those of you who share these views, I remind you of the poets
words and I say, “Happy are those who dream dreams and have the
courage to make them come true.”
My dream is for a city and her neighborhoods connected by a
Fourteen months ago and indeed, just a few weeks ago, some of
you thought that we would never see the Plaza on Orange rise out
of the ground. Tonight we will make that dream a reality.
Tomorrow, with your help, we make the dreams I have talked about
today a reality, making next year’s lunch an even grander
celebration of what we have accomplished together!
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