State of Downtown Address
September 20, 2005
Thank you, Frank, for
that excellent recap and for all of the great work you, your Board
and staff deliver for downtown and the City of Orlando each and
every day. I would also like to thank the Downtown Orlando
Partnership for hosting this meeting, and especially our Orlando
City Commissioners who share our vision for downtown.
I begin, I want to take a moment and reflect on our fellow American
citizens along the Gulf Coast. As we see the images of the
devastation in so many communities, we realize just how blessed we
are to be here today, meeting in our downtown with all the growth
and prosperity around us. From our experiences with Charley,
Frances, and Jeanne, I know the dedication and resolve of the people
in this room to restore communities. And I know that you have given
selflessly to rebuild the cities of the Gulf Coast. Last Friday’s
Tri-County League of Cities food drive for the Second Harvest Food
Bank, was a prime example of our community’s commitment… our
citizens made the most donations ever at a single site for Second
Harvest with more than 75,000 pounds of food… your compassion is
As I was thinking about how best to describe the state of our
downtown … something occurred to me. Each of you, as you made your
way here today, experienced a part of what has become our downtown’s
exciting renaissance… projects and programs that did not exist 2
from the North on I-4, you passed the sites of the new Federal Court
House Building and the new Florida A&M college of Law, which will
open in a few short months and serve as home to 750 law school
students in the heart of our City.
from the South on I-4, you witnessed the excitement of our growing
downtown skyline and the new CNL tower, which will be completed by
If you came from the East, through downtown; you may have passed one
of many projects underway, including the new residential units at
the Sanctuary and the Jackson, the new construction site for the
35-story VUE project … or the soon-to-break-ground Paramount
project, which will include our first full-service downtown grocery
store in decades.
If you came from the West, you may have seen the new Carver Park or
Parramore Village residential sites, or our new Parramore Heritage
Park. You probably noticed students from the inaugural class of
UCF’s state-of-the-art School of Film and Digital Media.
you simply walked here or rode the Lymmo circulator, you most likely
witnessed the dramatic construction of Premier Trade Plaza rising
out of the ground at our City’s cornerstone block, or perhaps, you
passed 55 West… these two projects will forever change the flavor of
our central core.
If you arrived from the North or South on Orange Avenue, you passed
through our City Gateways, anchored by Florida Hospital and Orlando
Regional Healthcare. We are fortunate to have two of Florida’s
largest and fastest growing medical centers downtown, and expanding
under the visionary leadership of Don Jernigan and John Hillenmeyer.
Florida Hospital will begin construction on October 25th, on a new
fifteen-floor 660,000 square foot building that is twice the size of
the existing hospital tower. And next Spring, Orlando Regional will
open their new 400,000 square foot Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women
think all of us here today agree that in just a few short years, and
in many cases just during the past year, our downtown has truly
turned around … and we’re not done yet. Just today, a new
residential project, Thornton Commons, went before the Municipal
Planning Board. When City Council approves the board action, this
development will include 510 residential condominiums, approximately
37,000 square feet of retail space, and over 1,000 parking spaces.
On the corner of Eola Drive and Church Streets, is a proposed
12-story multi-family residential property with 133 apartment units
and ground floor retail and parking components. And in October, the
Monarch at the northeast corner of Liberty and South Street, will go
before the MPB for approval on a 23-story condominium project with
ground floor retail space and parking. HOW ABOUT THAT!
Since I became Mayor I have shared my vision for our downtown … in
fact, I’ve shared it so many times most of you should be able to
recite it by now. Let me see … who here today can recite my vision?
How about Kimbra Hennessey? (“Your vision is for a Center City with
multi-modal transportation, world-class destinations and venues,
vibrant neighborhoods, a diversified economy with high-quality,
high-wage jobs… an urban core where citizens and visitors alike,
want to live, work, play and learn.”) That’s right! And ladies and
gentlemen, with the commitment from every stakeholder in this room,
we are turning that vision into action!
With all the new development and a rapidly growing urban population,
improved transportation will be critical to our downtown’s success.
That is why I created the City’s first cabinet level Transportation
Department, which recently launched the most comprehensive downtown
transportation plan in the City’s history. Upon completion, the plan
will show that improving transportation in our City’s core benefits
not only those living here, but also visitors to our downtown.
The keystone of our transportation system is transit circulators...
like the Lymmo. Joanie Schirm leads our new “Get Around Team” that
is advocating transit circulators to link all parts of our downtown:
from Florida Hospital in the North to Orlando Regional Hospital in
the South; from the Citrus Bowl in the West to Thornton Park in the
East. This effort will allow our citizens to access areas downtown
quickly and safely… without ever using a car.
Our transportation systems extend beyond the City limits. Thanks to
our Congressional Delegation, and specifically Congressman Mica, we
have secured the federal funding share to begin commuter rail in
2009. Commuter rail can reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and
you know what? Even if you you’re not a frequent rider, commuter
rail will finally rid the frustration associated with regular
freight train interruptions.
I stood before you last year, I said that if we are to succeed, we
must bridge our core with Thornton Park on the east and Parramore on
the West … and we are building that bridge with our bold
Pathways for Parramore initiative. Working hand-in-hand with
Commissioner Lynum, we are getting it done. Building off the
recommendations of our Parramore Task Force, which was lead by Brian
Butler, we are unveiling for the first time a vision plan for this
important part of our City.
This plan directs block-by-block development, ensuring mixed-use
development similar to City View and Hughes Supply in the area east
of Parramore Avenue, a largely undeveloped commercial area. The
“Town Center” in Parramore will include a mixture of office,
residential and retail development, and we will work to ensure
business opportunities that reflects the diversity of our community.
key to the vision plan is our first pathway … housing. Already, we
have three projects that will deliver on our commitment to provide
affordable quality housing. Carver Park, Parramore Village, and
Federal Otey Place will bring approximately 330 new units of housing
to Parramore . . . increasing not just homeowners . . . but
stakeholders . . . the foundation of any healthy neighborhood. And
we will not stop there. I’ve directed staff to identify programs to
assist existing Parramore residents with home ownership
opportunities in both Parramore Village and Federal Otey Place.
We are also focused on enhancing the quality of life within the
Parramore neighborhood. I want to thank Congresswoman Corrine Brown
and Senator Bill Nelson for their efforts to secure $17 million in
federal funding for the City to completely transform West Church
Street from Terry Avenue, past the new Parramore Heritage Park, to
the Citrus Bowl. This comprehensive revitalization will return
Church Street to a grand boulevard connecting Parramore and
You heard my educational priorities many times before… especially
for the children of Parramore. What you may not have heard is that
I’ve asked a group of our partners, led by Florida Hospital’s Rich
Morrison, to plan for a new children’s
campus that will combine the Nap Ford School, a Boy’s and Girl’s
Club, and the Orange County Early Learning Coalition. This campus
will serve children from infancy through eighth grade, and will
offer after school services for children through 12th grade. This is
an important commitment and it is one of the most significant
investments we can make!
I want to shift gears… I want to return to a conversation that I
started last year about upgrading the cultural, sporting and
entertainment facilities that serve our entire region. Their
improvement will require long-term commitment from the City of
Orlando, Orange County, and our many regional partners.
I want to improve the community venues because doing so is directly
tied to the region's ability to thrive. We are in competition with
other cities and other regions throughout the country for jobs,
commercial investment, and economic development. Modern facilities
and rich cultural opportunities attract positive growth in Central
Florida. I want to make sure that the next time a company like
Scripps short-lists Orlando; we have the world-class facilities that
ensure our place at the top of the list.
Unfortunately, Orlando now lags behind other southeastern cities
including Memphis, Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa, and even
Jacksonville. In fact, over the last 15 years, Orlando is the only
major City in the southeastern United States that hasn't invested in
or modernized community facilities. Our citizens deserve better.
about it, many of our fondest memories are centered around
activities and events that happen at ball parks, at concert halls
and in stadiums. They are the icons of civic identity and pride …
Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Denver’s Mile High Stadium and New York’s
Lincoln Center all help define the soul of their cities. No matter
where you’re from, Orlando is your home and we deserve to build new
memories with our children, friends and family in facilities we can
be proud of. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our turn.
A year ago, at this very event, we started the discussion of the
need to invest in community facilities, including our aging Florida
Citrus Bowl, TD Waterhouse Centre, and a new Performing Arts Center.
Last Friday, our hard work and efforts delivered news that will
bring our vision to fruition.
Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty confirmed to me in writing that he
supports using the tourist development tax to fund community
projects for the most deserving population … the people that live
In seeking the funding for the quality community facilities, we all
realize the answer lies in supporting a vision that does not
short-change our citizens. I applaud Mayor Crotty for his
willingness to push for the level of resources for our downtown
facilities that we dedicated to our mission to build a world-class
convention center that is key in supporting our tourism industry.
And, let me be extremely clear, we support our hospitality industry
partners and will include them in any tourist tax and community
We have made great strides in the decades old plan for a new
world-class Performing Arts Center. Just last year, I announced the
formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Center Board of Directors
chaired by Jim Pugh and comprised of key community leaders,
including Dick Nunis and Jim Seneff, to create the framework for
this much needed facility. On September 1st, they reached a major
milestone by selecting Houston-based developer Hines to define a
plan for submittal to Dr. Hitt, Mayor Crotty and me in early 2006.
an economic impact of more than $42 million from the 2005 Capital
One Bowl game alone and as host of the largest Black College
Football Classic in the Country, Florida Citrus Sports has harnessed
a group of community stakeholders chaired by Ford Kiene and Harvey
Massey to recommend upgrades needed to increase the number and
quality of Citrus Bowl events. Our downtown stadium’s benefits reach
well beyond our downtown businesses … the events impact all of our
partners including our theme parks, our arts and our hospitality
industry. Citrus Bowl events have become a model of how joint
commitment results in joint benefit.
Citizens have also begun to realize that our hometown arena should
offer more. While our facility is booked for 152 events this year,
including Arena Football, religious convocations, graduations,
concerts, not to mention 45 Magic home games, Orlando is being
passed over for newer facilities; forcing our citizens to drive to
Tampa, Melbourne and beyond for quality entertainment.
Since the beginning of this discussion, I’ve been overwhelmed by the
ground swell of support from groups and individuals in our community
that care about our future. For the first time, business,
government, community and private groups are in dialogue about
bringing a vision for multiple world-class facilities to reality. We
must harness and coordinate this energy and enthusiasm so that plans
for each facility compliment rather than compete with one another.
To that end, I have asked Mayor Bill Frederick to assist me in
encouraging the critical stakeholders to work together toward a
unified facilities vision.
cannot afford to shy away from making this investment. Ask our
Economic Development partners like Jacob Stuart & Ray Gilley and
they will tell you that these facilities are critical to attracting
the high-wage jobs that we need to provide opportunities for our
citizens and grow our economy. I believe the timing is right … by
investing in these facilities; we are investing in our economy, in
our people and in our future.
One of our best opportunities to define that future and diversify
our economy is our 70-acre Centroplex. In the past few months our
aging and under-utilized Expo Centre has been transformed to a new
home for the UCF School of Film and Digital Media as well as the
Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, which will soon grow to a
hot bed of activity, and home to over 3,000 students.
The new downtown UCF facility is just the start . . . Dr. John Hitt
and University staff have become valuable and dedicated partners in
diversifying our economy and growing high-wage high-value jobs, and
I thank Dr. Hitt for his friendship and vision. We are already
hearing from Digital Media firms that are interested in locating
close to the UCF facility. Imagine the Centroplex transformed into
an urban creative village comprised with a mixture of residential,
retail, office and education uses. Well, we’re making it happen!
For the past six months staff has been working on a thorough
analysis to develop an RFQ to transform the Centroplex into a
district attractive to high-tech and Digital Media firms and support
services. In the coming decades, Orlando will be known worldwide for
its Digital Media Village.
Orlando is a City with a great downtown. However, Orlando can be a
city with a spectacular downtown . . . Central Floridians throughout
the Region all gain when downtown is flourishing. Time and time
again, studies show that a prosperous downtown influences property
values in neighborhoods throughout the City and beyond. Our downtown
serves as the central neighborhood for the entire region and defines
us as a community and it’s where we come together for culture,
entertainment, business, government services and more.
My goal is to create a downtown that is one of the best in America,
one that is the envy of other cities. One that appeals to citizens
and visitors alike. I could not be more optimistic about our future.
In closing, I want to again thank our City Council members who have
embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to
move our City forward. Now, I challenge each and every one of you to
think BOLD, think BIG and remember our vision, as we continue
building opportunities for our citizens and future generations.
This is your City! This is your Downtown!
It’s our turn!
See more details on
projects in Downtown Orlando at
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