Mayor Dyer’s State of the City Address
Building on Our Success
February 22, 2006
Thank you, Commissioner
Sheehan, for that warm introduction. City Commissioners, elected
officials, distinguished guests and fellow citizens here and at home --
we are gathered this morning for you to hear my report on the state of
our great City. Before I begin, I would like to ask our City
Commissioners to please stand and be recognized for their tireless
efforts on behalf of our citizens. I would also like to introduce my
main supporter and love of my life…my wife Karen.
Since I was elected your Mayor three years ago this week, I’ve talked
consistently about our vision for a great City. And, I’ve shared the
steps we must take and hurdles we must overcome to make our vision a
reality for us and for future generations.
From the beginning we’ve discussed building a foundation to ensure
Orlando’s future as one of our nation’s greatest cities… a foundation
with a booming downtown with diverse jobs, entertainment and cultural
opportunities; a living wage so people can afford to own a home and
provide health care for their families; schools that our families can be
proud to send their children to; safe and connected neighborhoods with
ample parks, gathering places and community centers.
Today, I am here to report to you that our efforts to build that
foundation have been successful … and our opportunities to build on that
success are endless.
It’s not news that for the past three years we’ve had to work hard to
balance the budget … and that we’ve had to make some difficult decisions
along the way. By tightening the purse-strings and dedicating resources
where it matters most to citizens, we’ve been able to provide our
workforce with innovative tools, technology and training to make our
City a model for others. We’ve faced challenges like rising healthcare
costs, rising fuel costs and rising interest rates, all without raising
property taxes. And down the road, we know that we will continue to be
challenged to hold the line as we build additional fire stations and new
police sub-stations to support our growing population.
This year, our City Council has ensured that the Citizens of Orlando
have one of the best equipped Police Departments in the entire state,
dedicating more than $1.7 million of new funding for cutting-edge
technology to help respond to your 9-1-1 calls, defuse hostage
situations, and reduce the potential for officer fatalities.
Our top-rated fire department, which responded to more than 54,000 calls
in 2005, is about to grow in strength and force. We’re bringing Tower 8,
a new 95-foot ladder unit on line this year to enhance service in the
City’s growing southeast corridor, including Lake Nona, Lee Vista and
our airport. And we are already working on the design and development of
the Savannah Park Fire Station.
Our new eastside public safety complex will open this fall on Primrose
Avenue at the former Naval and Marine Reserve site … housing OPD’s
Neighborhood Enhancement Community branch and the Fire department’s
training and special ops units.
You can see that maintaining and improving core City services like
police and fire, remains at the top of our priority list. Across our
City we have successfully improved our delivery of public safety
services. To do this, it has taken the hard work of our City employees,
who have provided the highest quality services that our citizens deserve
…even as budgets have decreased. This year, we have reached 3-year
contracts with all 10 of our bargaining units … agreements that balance
our desire to compensate our employees well, and their desire to help
the City maintain long-term financial stability.
I want to take a moment to thank all of our employees and our City
Commissioners for working together on all of these agreements in the
best interest of our City and its citizens.
It is because of the vision, energy and passion of this City Council
that we re-established long-term financial stability; successfully
revitalized downtown, constructed new recreation centers, parks and
roadways, and brought new job opportunities to our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, through the toil and the triumphs of the past
three years, I am proud to be here today, not to ask you to envision
Orlando as the great City it can be, but to celebrate the great City
Orlando has become.
Last year, when I stood before you, I told you that in 2005 we would
complete our downtown renaissance … today, I am thrilled to announce a
project that will be a testament and confirmation of our downtown’s
Great universities add to great cities, and we are fortunate to have the
8th largest University in the nation – the University
Central Florida – in our community. In the past, you’ve heard me refer
to the concept of a “Digital Media Village” … a place where innovative,
high-tech businesses in the digital media world come together with
residential, retail and academia… in other words, a digital media
We started this effort when UCF’s School of Film and Digital Media and
Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, with corporate support from
Electronic Arts, opened in Orlando’s Centroplex this past summer. Today,
with this announcement, we are one step closer to finalizing this
opportunity for our City and for our children. In partnership with UCF,
and our long-time hotel partner Turnberry Associates, we will develop
the first-ever student housing complex in downtown Orlando, and in fact
the first ever-major housing and digital media project in the southeast.
This new student housing, which will be located in the current Marriott
Hotel adjacent to the UCF digital media campus, will make it possible
for approximately 300 digital media students to not only play and learn
downtown, but to live in our City core. UCF has also informed me they
are moving forward with an expansion to accommodate the school’s
anticipated 3,000 students and faculty. And, a new Class A hotel is in a
conceptual phase, as part of the project. This is a milestone in our
successful effort to grow a high-wage, high-value workforce in our city.
Complimenting this growth, we have more than 7,000 residential units,
over 2 million square feet of office space, and almost 1 million square
feet of retail space – proposed or underway – elevating downtown’s role
as the economic catalyst to the City and region. And all of this
construction is more than concrete and glass… it means jobs… thousands
of jobs, from designers and construction workers to engineers working
everyday building our new downtown. And according to UCF’s Institute for
Economic Competiveness, this growth is injecting nearly three-quarters
of a billion dollars into our region’s economy each year. There’s a
ripple effect … these dollars touch all of us … from small restaurant
owners and tradeworkers, to arts and cultural groups and large and small
In the coming year, several projects underway or set to begin will
change our skyline forever and rival the height of – the Sun Trust Tower
– which happens to be our tallest building… the VUE, 55 West, the
Solaire, Dynetech Center, and of course the Premiere Trade Plaza - where
the first, state-of-the-art movie theatres in decades will open later
Anchoring that growing skyline to the North and to the South are two of
Florida’s largest and fastest growing medical centers – Florida Hospital
and Orlando Regional Healthcare; each undergoing major expansions,
including Orlando Regional’s Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and
Babies, and Florida Hospital’s 15-floor hospital tower. Master planning
is also underway to develop medical arts districts that will go beyond
providing traditional healthcare service, and will also include art
galleries, restaurants and retail options.
With all of this underway, it should come as no surprise that in 2005,
Downtown Orlando was named one of Florida’s “Hot Downtowns” by Florida
Trend magazine. Ladies and Gentleman, the naysayers have been silenced
…our blighted blocks have been resurrected into the building blocks of
our City’s economic engine.
ripple effect of our renaissance has helped attract a first-of-a-kind
project to downtown’s southern gateway, and to other neighborhoods as
well. Orlando will be one of the first cities in the southeast to bring
retail opportunities, usually found in the suburbs to South Orange
Avenue. This project will transform a blighted, vacant block into a
thriving activity center. The developer, North American is already
working with a number of top-named retailers such as Target.
the impact continues, not only in the southern gateway, but also to the
north with the recently approved Mills and Nebraska redevelopment. For
years, the City had struggled to resurrect this property into a hub of
activity, and it wasn’t until recently – thanks to our flourishing City
core and especially the efforts of Commissioner Sheehan and Commissioner
Vargo– that we’re moving forward with a transformation … 500 residential
units – both rental and for sale, 80,000 square feet of commercial space
– and almost 300,000 square feet of office space.
And, we plan on duplicating commercial revitalization success in our
downtown in other neighborhoods. Moving forward, we’re taking what we
learned in our downtown efforts, along with our economic toolbox and
launching the City of Orlando’s Neighborhood Commercial Enhancement
program … we will target a corridor in each of our six commission
districts, and turn the abandoned retail areas, boarded up strip malls
and empty parking lots into neighborhood activity centers with a mix of
dining and entertainment, but also mom and pop markets within walking
distance – for friends and family to gather.
Yet with all of this success
in our City, we have more work to do in one specific area … that’s
right, community facilities. Over the last 15 years, Orlando is the only
major City in the southeast that hasn't invested in or modernized our
cultural, entertainment and sporting venues. The TD Waterhouse Centre is
17 years old, the Citrus Bowl – 70 years, and the Bob Carr Performing
Arts Center was originally built in 1926. Our citizens deserve better.
our turn to focus on improving these amenities, because doing so is
directly tied to our region's ability to thrive. Our Economic
Development Commission will tell you we are in competition daily with
other cities and other regions throughout the country for jobs and
In September, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty—Mayor thank you for
being here today-- confirmed to me in writing that he supports using the
tourist development tax to fund community projects. Since we received
that commitment, a partnership has been forged between the City and
Orange County – a truly collaborative effort – to make our vision for
these venues a reality.
For years, people discussed reconnecting the east and west sides of
downtown, and now, the City is doing just that. We have contracted with
Glatting Jackson to master plan community facilities, which doesn’t mean
just developing buildings, it means developing surrounding neighborhoods
with better transportation -- provided by Lynx’s Lymmo service, one of
our most critical partners; new housing opportunities and enhanced
entertainment options. And when we renovate or build these community
assets it will be an economic success for one very important reason. We
will improve the neighborhoods around these facilities at the very same
Orlando, because of our world-class convention center, world-class
hotels, world-class theme parks and attractions, has competed globally
for years as a tourist destination, but now with a booming downtown and
the potential for world-class community facilities, we can compete
globally for corporate headquarters, high-tech, high-value jobs and
diverse economic opportunities.
We realize that we are not building this City and fueling our economic
engine alone … it’s a team effort. The health of our economy depends on
our partners, like our Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development
Board, the Expressway Authority and the Convention and Visitors Bureau,
to grow and diversify job opportunities, to grow our tourism industry,
and increase our City’s tax revenues.
As the Center City and focal point of our region, we are responsible for
some of the most important resources critical to building sustainable
communities. For example, OUC, Orlando’s City-owned utility is making
progress on bringing an innovative, clean-coal power plant to the City,
which will ensure an alternative power supply for our future growth.
And our international airport is now the busiest in the state of
Florida, servicing more than 34 million passengers in 2005 – think about
that number, 34 million people from across the globe coming in and out
of Orlando, spending millions of dollars in our local economy … and
creating thousands of job opportunities from managers and creative
talent, to supporting hospitality and retail positions.
In fact, the number of positions is about to increase. Prime Outlets,
formally Belz Factory Outlet, will undergo a $100 million renovation and
expansion. And tomorrow, I will kick-off the opening of a sales center
for the Blue Rose Resort, a 13-acre, condominium hotel with a
Broadway-style theatre and conference center that will deliver an
jobs and an estimated 1,200 employees at the Resort.
In addition to supporting the tourism industry, our airport is growing
other segments of our local economy. JetBlue has recently expanded its
training facilities near the airport, and launched what is I believe
destined to be an aviation and simulation cluster, supported by our
world-class airport in south Orlando.
And within eyesight of the airport is Lake Nona. The work this City
Council did a decade ago, and the $80 million investment the City made
to build roads and infrastructure there allows us all to envision a
medical cluster anchored by a proposed UCF medical school, with
pharmaceutical, bio-tech and medical research firms, and the possibility
of a state-of-the-art VA Hospital, bringing additional healthcare
options and high-wage job opportunities to Orlando.
While just about all the experts predict that job growth will remain
proactive in Orlando in 2006, I will not allow this administration to
rest on our past success. We must remain proactive … economic prosperity
and quality job opportunities should be available for everyone.
Now, what does that mean?
That means helping minority-owned businesses in blighted communities.
And thanks to the support of Commissioner Lynum and the work of our
business development staff, we’ll do just that … by launching Orlando’s
Minority and Women Business Initiative. I’ll soon ask our City Council
to kick-off this pilot program, focusing on small business retention and
creation in the Parramore community, followed by similar programs in
And when it comes to increasing wages for our workers, we’re
implementing a program that will attract companies willing to pay our
citizens 150% of Florida’s average wage. We will accomplish this through
our new High-Value Job Creation program.
We also plan to grow and nurture new business start-ups to keep up our
reputation recognized by Business Week as a top 5 city for
entrepreneurs. We will develop the Orlando Business Enterprise Center, a
model that will be the first of its kind in the Southeast in partnership
again, with the University of Central Florida. The first Enterprise
Center will be in Commissioner Wyman’s District 2. She has played an
enormous role in developing this concept to ensure the diverse needs of
her citizens, specifically the Hispanic community, are met. In the
future, this model will be adopted throughout the City.
And while we continue to keep the wheels of our economy turning, we will
invest $210 million in improvements in the next five years in our unique
neighborhoods that will enhance the day-to-day lives of our citizens…
projects that make our sidewalks safer when our children walk to school,
that maintain our streets and keep them well lit, and that ensure local
gathering places are accessible and safe.
Indeed this City government has lit the fuse for the economic boom we
witness each and every day in our downtown. However, and I want to be
clear about this… downtown is just one of our neighborhoods…Dover
Shores, Washington Shores, Delaney Park, College Park, Rosemont,
Colonialtown, Englewood to name a few... these neighborhoods are the
reason Orlando is a great place to live.
My goal is to bring the same hue and focus that we have brought to
downtown to our other neighborhoods…and don’t think for a moment that we
have taken our eye off the ball when it comes to your neighborhoods
these past three years.
Even with the challenges of recent budgets, we have successfully erased
the backlog of neighborhood projects that had languished here at City
Hall on drawing board, some for more than fifteen years.
As a result of our work these past three years, neighborhoods throughout
Orlando are enjoying new parks and recreation centers … and we’re not
Wadeview Park in District 1 received a complete renovation with a new
picnic pavilion, new exercise equipment and brand new playground
equipment for the children.
And last spring, Mayor Page and I were on hand to open the long-awaited
pool at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center for children in
Commissioner Wyman in District 2 dusted off her golf clubs to enjoy new
amenities Dover Shores community Center – a new golf center and a new
community room for neighborhood gatherings.
Commissioner Vargo and I joined citizens in District 3’s Rosemont and
College Park neighborhoods to open two brand new, state-of-the art
Community Centers that combined offer a new gymnasium, fitness rooms,
and multi-purpose meeting space.
Commissioner Lynum and I, with our partners from Orange County and
Orange County Public Schools helped open the Ivey lane Park and
Neighborhood Center with a recreation center, playgrounds and pavilions;
as well as the brand new community center at Rock Lake.
And construction is already underway with the help of Commissioner
Sheehan in District 4, to renovate the crown jewel of our recreation
system, Lake Eola Park.
I cannot mention improvements in neighborhoods without mentioning our
City’s proud, culturally rich Parramore Heritage District. Last summer,
Commissioner Lynum and I launched Pathways for Parramore, the
initiatives to lead our revitalization efforts of this historic
Since then, we have been busy implementing our vision for both current
and future neighborhood residents. Last year, I stood before you and
said that our first priority was to build and restore housing…and now,
that work has begun.
Did you realize that a thousand mixed-income, residential units are
planned, proposed or under construction throughout the neighborhood?
And, starting today, seventeen long-time homeowners in Parramore will
receive much-needed renovations to their homes. In addition, the
announced Terrace at Federal Square will join the Florida A&M College of
Law and the new Federal Courthouse complex to bring vitality to that
part of Parramore.
With the help of Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Senator Bill Nelson,
improvements will begin this July on West Church Street between the
Citrus Bowl and Downtown transforming this important street into a grand
However, our efforts will not be successful without focusing on the
Parramore’s children who live in poverty. That is why we will begin a
new citywide initiative – the Legacy Trust for Orlando’s Children – in
Parramore. The Legacy Trust will provide scholarships to children in
low-income Orlando neighborhoods so they can participate in pre-k
classrooms, after school activities, obtain mentoring and tutoring and
provide access to healthcare. This program will be piloted in Parramore
and guided by a model developed by Harlem Children’s Zone. We will
nurture the most important asset of our City – Our children.
I cannot mention Parramore without mentioning one of the most visible
issues facing that neighborhood, our City and our region… homelessness.
And linked with that issue, is the challenge of providing housing that
people can afford. It will take leadership from all of us, the business
community, civic and religious organizations and yes, from governments
across all 86 cities and seven counties of Central Florida, to develop a
long-term plan of action.
The City of Orlando has been working with myregion.org, which has called
for the creation of a Human Services Alliance with representatives from
the public, private and civic sectors to tackle the issue of
homelessness and affordable housing. As an advocate for regionalism, I
have offered my support and leadership to this alliance and believe its
success will be based on all of us working together to meet the needs of
all our citizens.
City staff and our Affordable Housing Advisory Committee are moving
forward with the development of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Attainable
Housing, pursuing new and innovative programs to increase opportunities
not just for our lowest-income residents, but also for our hard working
professionals, our teachers, firefighters, service industry workers and
of course our police officers.
Next year, I will stand before you and tell you that home ownership
opportunities have grown substantially throughout the City and
specifically in Parramore… that we’ve transformed Division Avenue into
an attractive boulevard … That our No Tolerance Zone and door-to-door
campaigns have enhanced the neighborhood and built positive
relationships with Parramore citizens … that we are one step closer to
the development of an educational campus for infants through 8th grade.
And finally, that our long-time business partners, whether Hughes
Supply/Home Depot, Bank of America or others, have made significant
private investment in restoring Parramore to a safe, livable community.
Ladies and Gentlemen … three years ago I ran for Mayor and committed to
rebuilding our downtown… and now, our City core is thriving… we embarked
on a journey to talk about community facilities… and new cultural and
entertainment options for our families and visitors are on the horizon…
we said the city would have a living wage… and it does… we said we would
ignite opportunities for small businesses to succeed and citizens to
obtain better jobs… and we are… we said we would provide access to
quality amenities including parks and community centers … and we did… we
said we’d be innovative in managing our financial resources … and we
have … we said we would provide the best public safety services for our
citizens … and we do.
And, finally we pledged we would build a great City… and together, we
Our City has never been stronger; it’s citizens and business leaders
more proud, a Mayor and City Council more dedicated, and our future more
On this 22nd day of February 2006 my fellow citizens and distinguished
guests here today, I can report to you what many of my colleagues across
the country cannot…the state of our city is sound financially, we are
well positioned for the future and our opportunities to build on
Orlando’s success are endless.
Thank you and God Bless Orlando.
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